Kittiwake ©James Rogerson

Kittiwake chick at nest

Kittiwake ©Margaret Holland


Scientific name: Rissa tridactyla
A pretty, little gull, the kittiwake can be spotted nesting in colonies on clifftops and rock ledges around the UK's coast. It spends the winter out at sea.

Species information


Length: 38-40cm
Wingspan: 1.1m
Weight: 410g
Average lifespan: 12 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

February to October


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 eats fish, shrimps and worms, and does not scavenge at landfill sites like other gulls. It nests in colonies on clifftops and rock ledges from February until August; there are 380,000 pairs in the UK.

How to identify

The kittiwake is easily identifiable at its clifftop nesting colonies, particularly when you hear its 'kittiwake' call. Adults are 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.


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

Did you know?

Studies of kittiwake colonies have shown that birds at the centre of the colony are established pairs, having been together for several years. They tend to be more successful at raising their chicks than new pairings as they share the duties of guarding the nest more equally, meaning that both parents can feed well without the chicks being left alone.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a Living Seas vision, where coastal and marine wildlife thrives alongside the sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.