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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onWild­life → Black-leg­ged kit­ti­wa­ke

Black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Black-legged kittiwakes

Kit­ti­wa­kes like to socia­li­ze.

Descrip­ti­on: Black-leg­ged kit­ti­wa­kes are medi­um-sized gulls with black legs, yel­low beaks and grey upper wings with black tips. The sexes look ali­ke. Length 41 cm, weight 330-350 g.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­ons: Kit­ti­wa­kes are com­mon ever­y­whe­re in the Arc­tic and sub-Arc­tic. In Sval­bard, the­re are den­se colo­nies on steep rock cliffs in all parts of the archi­pe­la­go, the lar­gest being on Hopen and Bjørnøya. The­re are some bree­ding sites of a dif­fe­rent sort on win­dows­ills in Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den. The popu­la­ti­on in Sval­bard is esti­ma­ted at about 270,000 bree­ding pairs (one third of the­se being on Bjørnøya). They spend the win­ter on the open sea, not too far from the bree­ding are­as.

Bio­lo­gy: Colo­nies are situa­ted on steep cliffs whe­re they can breed wit­hout being dis­tur­bed by Arc­tic foxes or Polar bears. Kit­ti­wa­kes feed on a wide ran­ge of food, main­ly crustace­ans and fish, but they also fol­low fishing ves­sels. Their eggs and chicks and even adult Kit­ti­wa­kes are prey­ed on by Arc­tic foxes, Glau­cous gulls and the Gre­at skua. In con­trast to other cliff bree­ders, Kit­ti­wa­kes build a nest of plant mate­ri­al on nar­row rock led­ges. Egg-lay­ing takes place in the first half of June. The fema­le lays two eggs (three in the sub-Arc­tic), both par­ents sit for 27 days. Usual­ly, one chick will hatch one or two days befo­re the second one, and it is often only the older one that will sur­vi­ve.

Mis­cel­la­neous: A slight increase of the Sval­bard popu­la­ti­on sin­ce the mid-1990s is, for unknown reasons (bad food avai­la­bi­li­ty?) fol­lo­wed by a minor decrease. The popu­la­ti­on is howe­ver gene­ral­ly healt­hy and Kit­ti­wa­kes are among the most com­mon­ly seen birds in Spits­ber­gen, alt­hough in 2018, the kit­ti­wa­ke was clas­si­fied as “end­an­ge­red” on the Red List of end­an­ge­red spe­ci­es becau­se its Euro­pean popu­la­ti­ons have shrunk by 40% sin­ce the 1980s.



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last modification: 2019-02-02 · copyright: Rolf Stange