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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote® Kittiwake, Kittiwake, Kittiwake!

Air Date: Week of

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A black-legged kittiwake and a chick on the nest. (Photo: Brian Anderson, USFWS)

The black-legged kittiwake is know for its rhythmic calls. The gull is abundant in the Bering Sea, and, in winter, can also be found along the east and west coasts of North America. Michael Stein has this BirdNote®.


GELLERMAN: Well, from fear of bird flu to the delights of bird flight…


A colony of black-legged kittiwakes. (Photo: Julie St. Louis, USFWS)

GELLERMAN: You may think a gull is a gull is a gull. But in this BirdNote®, Michael Stein finds one species of gull that’s different.


STEIN: The cry of the kittiwake rings out across the northern ocean:


STEIN: 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.


STEIN: 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.”

(Photo: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS)

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.


GELLERMAN: That’s Michael Stein of BirdNote®. To see some photos of black-legged kittiwakes, wing on over to our website LOE dot org.



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.

BirdNote® Kittiwake, Kittiwake, Kittiwake! was written by Bob Sundstrom.


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