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Kittiwake, Kittiwake

This dapper, oceanic gull spends most of the year at sea!

Named for its rhythmic calls, the Black-legged Kittiwake as it is known in North America - it's also known as the Common Kittiwake - is a dapper, oceanic gull. As described by Roger Tory Peterson, the tips of its pale gray wings "are cut straight across, as if they had been dipped in ink." Unlike many gulls, kittiwakes spend most of the year at sea and are seldom seen inland. Watch the video, below, of kittiwakes nesting at Shoup Glacier in Alaska.

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Full Transcript

Kittiwake, Kittiwake, Kittiwake!
Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote![Black-legged Kittiwake typical “kittiwake, kittiwake, kittiwake” calls over crashing waves]

The cry of the kittiwake rings out across the northern ocean. [Black-legged Kittiwake calls]

Kittiwakes were well known to even the earliest northern seafarers. Named for its rhythmic calls, the Black-legged Kittiwake – as it’s known in North America – is a dapper, oceanic gull. The tips of its pale gray wings look as though they've been dipped in black ink.[Black-legged Kittiwake calls]

Unlike many gulls, kittiwakes spend most of the year at sea and are seldom seen inland. Vast numbers live on the Bering Sea, where they are by far the most abundant gull.
Ornithologist Arthur Bent wrote of nesting kittiwakes: “This species is always associated in my mind . . . in its summer home, with the dark, frowning cliffs of the frozen north, which tower for hundreds of feet above the stormy ice-bound seas until lost to sight in shrouds of mist and fog . . . a safe retreat in which to raise their hardy offspring.”
In winter, Black-legged Kittiwakes can be found along the West Coast from southern Alaska to Baja California, and along the East Coast from Labrador to Florida. [Black-legged Kittiwake calls]

Thank you for listening to BirdNote on this station.  We’re also on the web at, where you can view the transcripts, find a library of past shows, see photos of all the birds, and sign up to receive the shows by podcast.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.


Call of the Black-legged Kittiwake provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by J. Piatt.
Highlight Black-legged Kittiwake call recorded by K. Colver.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to   January 2017/2019  Narrator:  Michael Stein

ID# 011607BLKIKPLU              BLKI-01b     

[quotation p. 36 from: Bent, Arthur Cleveland. Life Histories of North American Gulls and Terns. New York: Dover, 1963.]


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