Wednesday, 4 February 2015

B.O.T.D. Black-Legged Kittiwake

B.O.T.D. Feb 4 2015

Black-Legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

It is called the black-legged kittiwake, but this is one bird worthy of the name "sea gull." It lives its life, wild and free, among the winds and waters of the oceans, and comes to land only long enough to nest and fledge its young on the precipitous sides of an oceanside cliff. So tiny is its nest that the kittiwake must sit with its breast against the rocks and its tail sticking out into empty space. The little ones must learn to lie low and hold tight while tempests beat upon the nest of compacted seaweeds and mosses.

That new sits snugly amid a cliffside colony of thousands of birds, which fly lightly and swiftly over the ocean waves flocks behind fishing fleets and pods of whales, not scavenging for handouts but seeking the time mollusks and crustaceans of the ocean' plankton as it is churned to the surface. The kittiwakes hover like terns, then plunge headfirst and swim in pursuit of their slipper prey.

They drink the salt water, too; indeed, they will only drink salt water. Their bodies, like those of all truly oceanic birds, carry excess salt through the bloodstream to special nasal glands, then let it drip back into the sea. Like their food and drink, even their rest is provided by the sea. At nightfall the kittiwakes alight on the rolling waves, tuck their heads under their wings and drift peacefully in sleep.