Population status

Black-legged Kittiwake
(Rissa tridactyla)

Black-legged Kittiwakes are monitored through Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Seabird Colony Monitoring Program, which includes direct counts or photo-counts at their breeding colonies. Monitoring data are available for >20 colonies across Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and Nunavut. Trends are variable among colonies and regions, with abundance generally increasing in Arctic Canada and decreasing in Atlantic Canada, relative to about 1970 (Gaston et al. 2009, Mallory et al. 2009). Trends have varied over time as well; abundance at Prince Leopold Island changed little from 1975-1988, but increased sharply from 1988-2008 (Mallory et al. 2009). In contrast, abundance in eastern North America increased between about 1970 and 1990, decreased until the early 2000s, and has subsequently increased (Hatch et al. 2009, Cotter et al. 2012). Regional variation is also evident throughout the species’ circumpolar range, with some populations increasing, some stable, and some declining (Kuletz et al. 2017). While results from the Seabird Colony Counts suggest an overall decrease in the population, there is less coverage of the arctic colonies, which are thought to be increasing (Gaston et al. 2009). Thus, the overall abundance in Canada is more likely to have changed little relative to about 1970. The strong regional and temporal variation may not be adequately captured in these monitoring data, so the reliability of the assessment is therefore considered to be medium. The Black-legged Kittiwake is currently managed at a population-level, so a single national goal has not been established. The Atlantic population is below the lowest acceptable level relative to its national population goal, while the Arctic population is at an acceptable level (see graphs below; note that the reference period for the Atlantic population is 1970-1974 and not the first 5 years of the survey).


Population goal and acceptable levels of variation

Species/groupGoalLower levelUpper level
Black-legged Kittiwake, Arctic populationMean abundance (2008-2012)Mean long-term abundance (1970-2012) minus 25%Not applicable
Black-legged Kittiwake, Atlantic populationMean abundance (first 5 years of survey)Goal minus 25% Not applicable

Seabird Colony Monitoring Program

Additional information on: Seabird Colony Monitoring Program

Table 1: Population trends by geographic area
Geographic areaTime PeriodAnnual Trend Table 1 - footnote 1 Limits
Eastern Canada Select to view graph of the geographic area: Eastern Canada 1970-2016; Seabird Colony Monitoring Program1970-2016-1.4-3.10.2
Arctic coast Select to view graph of the geographic area: Arctic coast 1977-2009; Seabird Colony Monitoring Program1977-20092.11.13.1