English and Scientific names:

Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Number of individuals: 

One in worn first-summer plumage

Locality: LOUISIANA: 

Cameron Parish

Specific Locality:

East Jetty Beach, ca. 1/4 mi. east of the east jetty; ca. 2 mi. S Cameron

Date(s) when observed:

29 April 2007

Time(s) of day when observed:  

Between 7:30 and 7:50 PM CST

Reporting observer and address:

Justin Bosler
Baton Rouge, LA

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):


Devin Bosler

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s):

None that I know of.

Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Fair lighting conditions under mostly cloudy sky with the sun at a low angle on our backs

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss Victory FL 8x42 (brand new) and Nikon Fieldscope 60ED with 25-45x zoom eyepiece (good)

Distance to bird(s): 

At closest point between 500-600 meters.

Duration of observation:

The observation lasted approximately 20 minutes.


Sandy beach of immediate shoreline to shallow surf of Gulf of Mexico.

Behavior of bird: 

The gull was first discovered resting on the beach slightly removed from the other larids, but soon began to bathe and preen actively in the shallow surf for the remainder of the observation.


Medium-sized gull with pale gray mantle, blackish carpal bar, and mostly white underparts. In structure, it appeared slightly pot-bellied with relatively short legs in comparison to laughing gull. Immediately noticeable were dark gray ear covert patch; diffuse grayish tone on hind crown; thin, black hind collar or neck-boa; and dingy, straw yellow bill. The secondaries and greater secondary coverts were whitish. Even median secondary coverts were pale gray to white in coloration. Primaries and primary coverts were brownish-black and very abraded due to wear. Some primaries were nearly worn down to the shaft. The lesser coverts were mostly dark brown with some light patches of gray. A thin, black subterminal tail band was also evident. Legs were dark brown to black.


No voice heard.

Similar species:

A similarly-aged Bonaparte's Gull could be eliminated by overall size, structure, and bare part coloration, specifically legs and bill (deep pink and black, respectively). Nearly the same characters can easily separate it from a subadult Sabine's Gull. Sabine's Gull normally has paler brown upperwing coverts, lacks a dark ear spot, and has different bare part colorations. Sabine's also has extremely long primaries, which gives it an overall slimmer look. Some first-summer Sabine's Gulls may show incomplete dark hood.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Digivideo'd video grabs by Justin Bosler

Previous experience with this species: 

In addition to the prior run in with a first-winter/first-summer individual of this species in Louisiana on 20 March 2007, Black-legged Kittiwakes were encountered as common migrants and fairly common winter residents at a select few coastal locations in downeast Maine, where I lived for a year. Also, October pelagic trip from Bar Harbor, ME; birding Cape Ann and Cape Cod peninsulas of MA in winter, and a few seen from Island Beach State Park in NJ.

Identification aids:

after observation:  Consulted Olsen and Larsson's "Gulls of North America, Europe, and Asia" for detailed description of specific age classification and plumage advancement in this species.

This description is written from: 

My description is written from both notes taken after the observation and from memory.

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 


Yes, I am 100% confident in the identification.


Justin Bosler

Date and time: 

22 September 2007; 1:12 AM CST