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Spotting And Photographing The Kittiwake

Here's a quick guide to spotting and photographing the Kittiwake.

| Eschenbach Arena D+ 10x50 B in Animals / Wildlife

Spotting And Photographing The Kittiwake: Kittiwake


The kittiwake has an average size of 40 cm. The head and abdomen are white. The dark brown eyes are bordered by a thin red line; the wings are gray with black tips. The beak is yellow and the legs are black. At first sight, the kittiwake only has three fingers on its legs. That's where its Latin name “tridactyla” comes from. A fourth atrophied finger is visible above the joint at the back of the leg.

During molting in December, the adult has a different plumage, a black stain in the shape of a crescent is visible behind each eye, a gray coloration is visible on the neck and the back of the neck. The ring around the eyes becomes dark red.

There is no sexual dimorphism between male and female, they are almost identical except for the male being a little bigger than the female.



Kittiwakes are found in northern marine regions. They spend most of their time at sea but get closer to the coast when nesting. Generally solitary, they gather in large colonies on their favorite nesting place: large cliffs where they are safe from most predators. Large colonies are found in the British Isles, Faroe Islands and Iceland.



While they are usually silent in the open sea, they can be very noisy on their breeding ground.

A colony can accommodate up to 100,000 kittiwakes. Couples do not have much room since nests are built very close to each other on cliff edges. The male uses dirt, mud, feathers and dry seaweed to build the nest.

During the courtship, the male leans forward and moves its head up and down while making loud noises to attract the female. Gulls are great predators for the chicks, they need constant protection. They are not safe from a fall either. Fortunately, they instinctively know that they must remain quiet. The young are able to fly after 6 weeks but are still fed by their parents.

The world population of kittiwakes is decreasing, but the species is not yet considered threatened. While they don’t feed on garbage dumps like most gulls, they occasionally feed on waste from fishing ships.

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gingerdougie Avatar
gingerdougie 16 67 United Kingdom
10 Sep 2017 7:20PM
The easiest place to photograph kittiwakes is the Tyne Bridge in spring and summer. a kiitwke nesting colony has been established in the ledges of the Tyne bridge for many years all one has to do is lean over the parapets and take photos!

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