The Kittiwake

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Black-legged kittiwakes are small white and grey gulls with black wing tips, a yellow bill and red eye rings. Their short legs are well adapted for nesting on narrow cliff ledges where their loud and distinctive “Kittiwaaaaak” call is unmistakable.

Kittiwakes are a pelagic gull, which means that they spend their winters in northern seas and oceans far from land.

There are actually two species of kittiwake, black-legged (Rissa tridactyla) and red-legged (Rissa brevirostris). The red-legged kittiwake breeds on islands in the north Pacific Ocean. Seabirds in the City is primarily concerned with black-legged kittiwakes which are more numerous and resident around the British Isles during the breeding season.

Kittiwakes have been nesting along the River Tyne since the late 1940s, which has become home to an internationally significant colony of kittiwakes. Each year, the gulls return to areas of North Shields and NewcastleGateshead Quayside to nest on buildings and structures, which function as surrogate cliff faces.

Black-legged kittiwakes are classified as a ‘red list’ species in the UK and ‘vulnerable’ internationally.

Seabirds in the City Kittiwake