The black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) is a seabird species in the gull family Laridae.
In North America, this species is known as the black-legged kittiwake to differentiate it from the red-legged kittiwake, but in Europe, where it is the only member of the genus, it is often known just as kittiwake.
Adults have a white head and body, grey back, grey wings tipped solid black, black legs and a yellow bill. Occasional individuals have pinkie-grey to reddish legs, inviting confusion with red-legged kittiwake. The inside of their mouth is also a characteristic feature of the species due to its rich red colour. Such red pigmentation is due to carotenoids pigments and vitamin A which have to be acquired through their diet. Studies show that integument coloration is associated with male's reproductive success. Such hypothesis would explain the behaviour of couples greeting each other by opening their mouth and flashing their bright mouth it to their partner while vocalizing. As their Latin name suggests, they only possess three toes since their hind toe is either extremely reduced or completely absent. The two subspecies being almost identical, R. tridactyla pollicaris is in general slightly larger than its counterpart R. tridactyle tridactyla. In winter, this species acquires a dark grey smudge behind the eye and a grey hind-neck collar. The bill also turns a dusky-olive colour.
At fledging, the juveniles differ from the adults in having a black 'W' band across the length of the wings and whiter secondary and primary feathers behind the black 'W', a black hind-neck collar and a black terminal band on the tail. They can also be identified due to their solid black bill. This plumage is a hatch-year plumage and will only remain for their first year.