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Black-legged Kittiwake

Rissa tridactyla

Length: 16 inches Wingspan: 36 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Black legs, unmarked yellow bill, dark eyes, black wingtips without spots

Black-legged Kittiwake - Rissa tridactylaThe Black-legged Kittiwake is primarily a pelagic species, rarely spending time on land except during the breeding season.  They are generally rare migrants and winter visitors inland.  Kittiwakes are named after their loud, piercing call.

Habitat: Spends the majority of its life at sea, anywhere from the coastline to far out at sea.  Breeds on steep cliffs near the Arctic.

Diet: Primarily feeds on fish, but will also eat crustaceans, mollusks, marine worms, and insects. 

Behavior: Often forages while in flight, dipping down to the water's surface to grab fish and other prey.  They will also swim on the ocean's surface and grab food items.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota.

Interactive eBird Map: Click to access an interactive eBird map of Black-legged Kittiwake sightings

Song: A loud ki-ti-waaake

Migration: Summers in the extreme north around the Arctic.  Winters off both coasts of the U.S., generally well offshore. 

Similar Species: Sabine's Gull (winter plumage), Red-legged Kittiwake (not seen in South Dakota).

Conservation Status: Wide fluctuations in local populations, with some areas experiencing huge increases in numbers and others experiencing large decreases.

South Dakota Hotspot: A rarity, but most sightings have occurred below the Missouri River reservoir dams.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Black-legged Kittiwake

2) BirdWeb - Black-legged Kittiwake

3) Audubon Guide - Black-legged Kittiwake

Photo Information: August 8th, 2010 -- Near Seward, Alaska -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Black-legged Kittiwake photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Black-legged Kittiwake - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Rare migrant, most often seen along the Missouri River.

Additional Black-legged Kittiwake Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
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