Kittiwake

Scientific name: Rissa tridactyla

Did you know: Kittiwakes, known for their ‘kittiwake’ call, are unique among gulls for their cliff-nesting habits, making their colonies a spectacular sight on coastal cliffs.

What Do Kittiwakes Look Like? (how to identify them)

Kittiwakes are medium-sized, graceful gulls that have a distinct appearance. 

They feature a grey-coloured back, white underparts, and a small yellow bill. They have long black legs, and in flight, their black wing-tips, devoid of white, are notable. They’re easily identifiable by their delicate build and ‘dipped in ink’ wing-tips.

Differences Between Male And Female Kittiwakes

Males and females are visually similar, making them hard to differentiate in the field. Both share the species’ characteristic grey and white plumage and ink-tipped wings.

What Do Kittiwakes Eat?

Kittiwakes have a diet primarily consisting of fish, supplemented with worms and shrimps. They are agile hunters, often catching their prey by skillfully swooping down from the air or the water’s surface.

Where Do Kittiwakes Live? (inc. migration info)

Kittiwakes are coastal birds found in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and Arctic oceans. After the breeding season, they migrate to the open Atlantic, returning to cliffs and seaside habitats for nesting. The UK hosts significant populations, with notable colonies in Scotland.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Kittiwakes)

Kittiwakes are named after their distinctive call, a high-pitched ‘kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake’. This call, especially common during the breeding season, is one of the defining sounds of coastal cliffs where they nest.

Fun Kittiwake Facts (kid friendly)

  • Kittiwakes are named after their loud call.
  • They nest on steep cliffs, making their colonies safe from many predators.
  • Unlike other gulls, Kittiwake chicks stay still in their nests to avoid accidentally falling.
  • They spend winters in the open ocean, far from land.
  • Kittiwakes can live up to 28 years in the wild.
  • They have a wingspan of about 95-110 cm, making them masterful fliers.
  • Kittiwakes are known to form large, noisy colonies during breeding.
  • They are the only species of gulls that exclusively nest on cliffs.
  • In the UK, they are often found in Scotland’s coastal areas.
  • Kittiwakes have been observed nesting on human-made structures like bridges.

Kittiwake Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Kittiwake

Diet: Fish, shrimps and worms.
Bird Family: Gulls and terns
Length: 38-40cm
Wingspan: 95-110cm
Weight: 300-500g
Scientific Name: Rissa tridactyla

The Kittiwake Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December