This lovely little gull is one of the few that breeds actually on cliff ledges. The nest is made from seaweed and tidal rubbish often almost glued to very narrow ledges by guano.
Its two names are very apt. As anyone who has heard a colony will know they say 'Kittiwake' (actually in Canada the fishermen know them as 'Ticklace'). And if you look at one close to you will see it has three toes (tridactyla). The birds in the colony seem very dove-like and very affectionate as a pair.
These are essential pelagic gulls spending a lot of their time well out to sea taking fish and invertebrates from the top 100 mm of the water surface. They are found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific and right round the Siberian coast. In winter they range out all over the oceans and come almost as far South as the tropics. They have black legs (there is another in the Pacific with red), a yellow bill and white body (black nape patch in breeders) with delicate grey wing coverts and mantle and very characteristic black wing tips. Immature have a dark brown W across the wings and a dark terminal tail band. Almost 550,000 pairs breed in Britain and Ireland.
A small, buoyant gull with black wing tips found at sea.
Length 390 mm Closed wing 310 mm Weight 410 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead