• Adult

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Red-legged Kittiwake

Rissa brevirostris
This is a large and highly varied group of birds that do not have many outward similarities. Most are water birds that feed on invertebrates or small aquatic creatures. The order is well represented in Washington, with seven families:
The family Laridae is made up of birds closely associated with water. Distributed throughout the world, representatives of this family nest on every continent, including Antarctica. Most are long-lived birds, many of which do not breed until they are three or four years old. Most are colony nesters and nest on the ground. Clutch size is generally small, varying from one to four eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs and help feed the young. The young typically hatch covered with down and stay in the nest for a few days, after which they leave the nest but stay nearby. Most, especially in Washington, raise a single brood a year. This group is known for its elaborate displays in the air and on the ground.

The Washington representatives of this family can be split into two groups, or subfamilies. The adaptable gulls are the most familiar. Sociable in all seasons, they are mainly coastal, but a number of species also nest inland. Many—but not all—are found around people. Gulls have highly variable foraging techniques and diets. Terns forage in flight, swooping to catch fish or insects. They dive headfirst into the water for fish. Although they are likely to be near water, they spend less time swimming than gulls.

    General Description

    Red-legged Kittiwake

    This small gull breeds on a few islands in the Bering Sea region and winters at sea across the northern Pacific Ocean, west to Japan and east to the Gulf of Alaska. It is a close relative of the widely distributed Black-legged Kittiwake and similar in appearance. Some important differences are Red-legged Kittiwake’s shorter bill, red leg color (pink in juveniles), darker gray mantle, and the absence of the Black-legged’s strong black juvenal wing pattern. See field guides for other distinguishing traits.

    The status of Red-legged Kittiwake in the Pacific Northwest is imperfectly known due to lack of observers in its pelagic habitat. However, it appears to be a rare but probably regular visitor to inshore and offshore waters along the outer coast. Most records are in winter and early spring (December through April): six from Oregon, five from Washington, and one from British Columbia. Eight of these 12 records have been of birds found dead or dying on beaches. The region’s three summer records—two from Washington, one from Oregon—occurred from late June to mid-August.

    Revised June 2007

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern