Red-legged Kittiwakes

The Red-legged Kittiwakes, Rissa brevirostris, is a seabird species in the gull family Laridae.

Distribution / Range

It breeds in the Pribilof, Bogoslof, and Buldir islands of the USA, and the Commander Islands, Russia.

The Red-legged Kittiwake is a very localised subarctic Pacific species

This species is classed as vulnerable since it has a limited population (291,000 – 321,000) and range (1,740 km²), and its numbers decreased by c.35% between the mid-1970s to mid-1990s.

Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris)


Adults are 35-40 cm long, with an 84-92 cm wingspan.

Apart from the distinguishing feature implicit in its name, it is very similar to its better-known relative, the Black-legged Kittiwake; other differences include the shorter bill, larger eyes, a larger, rounder head, and darker grey wings, and in the juveniles, which barely differ from the adults, lacking the black tail band and ‘W’ across the wings of juvenile Black-legged Kittiwakes.

Juveniles take three years to reach maturity.

Like the Pacific race of Black-legged Kittiwake, the Red-legged Kittiwake has a well-developed hind toe. As occasional individual Black-legged Kittiwakes have reddish legs, any reports of Red-legged away from the subarctic Pacific must record all of the other differences, not just the leg colour, for acceptance by bird recording authorities.

Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris) feeding its chick

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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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