British wildlife recordings
Rissa tridactyla : Kittiwake - Laridae
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Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire: OS Grid Reference(172500,209500)
Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla
The call of the Kittiwake, recoded on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire. The kittiwake is neater and daintier-looking than many other gull species. It has a slim yellow bill and dark eye, with short black legs and webbed feet. Young birds have a distinctive bold black 'W' pattern on their wings in flight. It is a truly marine gull, rarely seen inland, and spends most of its time far out in the Atlantic, feeding on small fish and other marine creatures. During the breeding season, a kittiwake will return to its natal colony, where it nests on the steepest, most inaccessible cliffs, so that eggs and young are safe from predators. Unlike other gull species, it constructs a substantial nest of seaweed, mud, and grass, and can often be seen collecting mud from freshwater pools near the colony. The colonies become very crowded and noisy with the distinctive 'kitti-wayke' call from which the bird gets its name. During the 19th century the kittiwake was persecuted, and although populations increased during the 20th century, this growth has now halted and in some areas, particularly Shetland, the numbers are declining. Reasons for this are still not fully understood, but a shortage of sand eels and an increase in the predatory great skua may be to blame.