Saturday, September 3, 2016

Black-Legged Kittiwake

The black-legged kittiwake is another gull we saw, but it was much more prevalent than the other two gulls I've just blogged about, the glaucous gull and the glaucous-winged gull. A large part of that was because Gull Island in Kechamak Bay, Alaska, is a rookery site and contains 8,000 to 10,000 nesting sites in a normal year. The name comes from its call, a shrill "kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake." 
Most of the birds dotting this rock are black-legged kittiwakes.
Like the previous-mentioned gulls, it has a white head and body and a gray back and gray wings. Characteristics that distinguish it are its yellow bill without a red spot on the lower mandible, black legs, and solid black wing tips, as if dipped in ink. It is also smaller. In winter they will get a dark gray smudge behind the eye and a gray hind-neck collar. 
Nests are close together.

It breeds on the coast primarily in the north Pacific and north Atlantic and is most common in North America and Europe. They breed in large colonies on cliffs, like Gull Island, and have nests lined with moss or seaweed. 
This one has a red streak near the back of the bill and I saw several like that. I've not seen any descriptions that make note of the red streak. 
The black tipped wings are very obvious on this bird in flight near the Hubbard Glacier, the photo taken from the Island Princess. 
Also near the Hubbard Glacier, the black legs are visible in the water.
Standing on ice calved from the Hubbard Glacier.


  1. I love the first picture of all the birds on the rock. It's reminiscent of Hitchcock's "The Birds."

  2. I've never thought of gulls as a bird that would be found on a chunk of ice. Great pictures of all these varieties of gulls.