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VU
Red-legged Kittiwake Rissa brevirostris

Justification
This species is listed as Vulnerable owing to a rapid population reduction in the last three generations (44 years). Trends in the main population appear to have stabilised and, unless declines recommence the species may warrant downlisting to Near Threatened in future.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Identification
35-39 cm. Small gull. Adults mostly white, but dark grey upperwing and back. Black tips to outer primaries. Scarlet legs. Short bill and steep forehead give distinctive profile. Juvenile and first winter birds have more black on outer primaries and primary coverts, extensive white on inner primaries and secondaries. Similar spp. Black-legged Kittiwake R. tridactyla is lighter grey on upperwing and back, has longer bill and black legs. However, R. tridactyla can very rarely have reddish-orange legs. Immature R. tridactyla has carpal bar and tail-band.

Distribution and population
Rissa brevirostris breeds in the Pribilof (St Paul, St George and Otter), Bogoslof (Bogoslof and Fire) and Buldir (Buldir, Outer Rock, Middle Rock) islands, USA, and the Commander Islands (Arij Kamen, Toporkov, Bering and Mednyi), Russia. In 1990s, small breeding colonies were also discovered on Unalga, Koniuji and Amak Islands (Aleutians) (J. Williams in litt. 2007). From the mid-1970s to mid-1990s, the known population declined by c.35%. Most of this decline was on the Pribilofs: a precipitous c.44% in breeding numbers on St George, where over 80% of the 1970s population bred. The small population on St Paul declined by 55%. The population on St George has apparently now stabilised at c.123,000 birds (Dragoo et al. 2000, Dragoo et al. 2001). The second largest colony on Bering Island contained 12% of the population in the mid-1970s but the decline on the Pribilofs had increased this to 18% by the mid-1990s. There is some evidence of a historic decline on the Commander Islands, but no counts are available prior to the late 1980s and numbers have remained stable from the mid 1990s to 2007 (J. Williams in litt. 2007). No other colony holds more than 2% of the population, but the number of nests had increased threefold on the Bogoslof Islands and twofold on Buldir Island by the mid-1990s (Byrd et al. 1997). There are an estimated 160,000-180,000 breeding adults in Alaska (Kushlan et al. 2002) and 17,000 pairs in the Commander Islands, Russia, (del Hoyo et al. 1996), which gives a global population estimate of 337,000-377,000 mature individuals.

Population justification
There are an estimated 160,000-180,000 breeding adults in Alaska (Kushlan et al. 2002) and 17,000 pairs in the Commander Islands, Russia, (del Hoyo et al. 1996), which gives a global population estimate of 337,000-377,000 mature individuals, and the population is therefore best placed in the band 100,000-499,999 individuals. Brazil (2009) has estimated the population in Russia at c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration.

Trend justification
From the mid-1970s to mid-1990s, the known population declined by c.35%. Most of this decline was on the Pribilofs: a precipitous c.44% in breeding numbers on St George, where over 80% of the 1970s population bred. The small population on St Paul declined by 55% over the same period, and continues to decline (H. Renner in litt. 2012). The population on St George has apparently stabilised at c.123,000 birds (Dragoo et al. 2000, Dragoo et al. 2001) and has recovered to numbers similar to the 1970s (H. Renner in litt. 2012). The second largest colony on Bering Island contained 12% of the population in the mid-1970s but the decline on the Pribilofs had increased this to 18% by the mid-1990s. There is some evidence of a slight decline on the Commander Islands, but no counts are available prior to the late 1980s and it is unclear whether this is a trend or just interannual fluctuations. No other colony holds more than 2% of the population, but the number of nests had increased threefold on the Bogoslof Islands and twofold on Buldir Island by the mid-1990s (Byrd et al. 1997). The population at Buldir appears to be stable (H. Renner in litt. 2012). Therefore, although there are recent signs of increases, and the overall population may have stablised, it is still estimated to have declined at 30-49% over 44 years (three generations).


Ecology
This species nests in colonies on ledges on vertical sea cliffs, and feeds on small fish (e.g. lampfish), squid and marine invertebrates (Byrd and Williams 1993). Birds arrive at nesting colonies in April and leave around September, dispersing southwards over the north-east Pacific and east to the Gulf of Alaska (Byrd and Williams 1993).

Threats
The reasons for the population decline remain unclear, but it has been attributed to a reduction in food supply resulting from excessive commercial fishing. Shifts in the distribution of prey fish species, resulting from climate change and rising sea temperatures, may also contribute to current and future declines (Anon 2006). The recent construction of a harbour in the Pribilof Islands considerably increases the chances of the accidental introduction of rats which would pose a serious threat (Byrd and Williams 1993). The species is potentially threatened by climate change because it has a geographically bounded distribution: its global distribution is restricted to within c.10o latitude from the polar edge of continent and within which 20-50% of current vegetation type is projected to disappear under doubling of CO2 levels (Birdlife International unpublished data). The on-going decline on St Paul could be partly caused by subsistence offtake (H. Renner in litt. 2012).


Conservation Actions Underway
It is a protected species in both the USA and Russia. The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve protect many of the breeding colonies. A rat prevention programme is underway in the Pribilof Islands (Byrd and Williams 1993). Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor breeding populations to assess decline rates. Assess the status of rats at breeding colonies. Assess the impact of commercial fishing. Establish the proposed buffer zone around the Pribilof Islands in which trawl fishing would be prohibited (Lensink 1984).

References
Anon. 2006. Will kittiwakes survive the changing climate? Birder's World 20: 13.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Byrd, G. V.; Williams, J. C. 1993. Red-legged Kittiwake Rissa brevirostris. In: Poole, A.; Gill, F.B. (ed.), The birds of North America, No. 60, pp. 1-12. Academy of Natural Sciences and American Ornithologists' Union, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

Byrd, G. V.; Williams, J. C.; Arthukhin, Y. B.; Vyatkin, P. S. 1997. Trends in the populations of Red-legged Kittiwake Rissa brevirostris, a Bering Sea endemic. Bird Conservation International 7: 167-180.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Dragoo, D. E.; Byrd, G. V.; Irons, D. B. 2001. Breeding status, population trends and diets of seabirds in Alaska, 2000. U.S Fish and Wildlife Service AMNWR 01/07, Homer.

Dragoo, D. E.; Vernon Byrd, G.; Irons, D. B. 2000. Breeding status and population trends of seabirds in Alaska in 1999.

Kushlan, J. A.; Steinkamp, M. J.; Parsons, K. C.; Capp, J.; Cruz, M. A.; Coulter, M.; Davidson, I.; Dickson, L.; Edelson, N.; Ellio, R.; Erwin, M.; Hatch, S.; Kress, S.; Milko, R.; Miller, S.; Mills, K.;…authors continued in notes. 2002. Waterbird cons

Lensink, C. J. 1984. The status and conservation of seabirds in Alaska. In: Croxall, J.P.; Evans, P.G.H.; Schreiber, R.W. (ed.), Status and conservation of the world's seabirds, pp. 13-27. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Audubon WatchList

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Butchart, S., Gilroy, J., Pilgrim, J., Taylor, J.

Contributors
Artukhin, Y., Renner, H., Williams, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Rissa brevirostris. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/10/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/10/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Laridae (Gulls, Terns, Skimmers)
Species name author (Bruch, 1853)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 192,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species