Rissa tridactyla


The kittiwake is our most sea-loving gull, only turning up inland on odd occasions and spending winter out on the Atlantic. A medium-sized, elegant and gentle-looking gull, it nests in colonies on cliff tops and rock ledges from February until August - there are just under 380,000 pairs in Britain. It eats fish, shrimps and worms and does not scavenge at landfill sites like other gulls.

How to identify

The kittiwake is easily identifiable at its nesting colonies on cliff faces, when you can hear its 'kittiwake' call. Silvery-grey above and white below, with a white head and black wingtips. Young birds have a black W across their wings and back, a black neck-collar and a black band on their tail.

Where to find it

Nests on coastal cliffs. Can be seen around most of our coasts during migration.


When to find it

  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

How can people help

Kittiwake populations are declining, possibly due to the decline of sandeels which they prey upon. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas' where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Rissa tridactyla
Gulls and seabirds
Length: 38-40cm Wingspan: 1.1m Weight: 410g Average Lifespan: 20 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.