Red-legged kittiwake

On Location: St. George and the Pribilof Islands

Zegrahm Contributor|August 4, 2010|Blog Post

This morning, we arrived at one of the world’s great wildlife spectacles: a northern fur seal rookery in the Bering Sea’s remote Pribilof Islands. The roars of the male fur seals would occasionally cease just long enough that we could hear the squeals of the tiny month-old pups. Scattered across the black lava rocks, many of these young seal pups were eagerly awaiting the return of their mothers, who were currently off on feeding trips. While the pups waited, the enormous adult males (which are 35% longer and more than 4.5 times heavier than the females) each defended their beachfront territory from other males, in the hope that only they would have access to the females on their turf.

Equally impressive was a visit to a tundra-covered bluff overlooking a steep cliff that was dotted with nesting seabirds of several different species. Puffins, murres, and three species of auklets found this vertical environment a safe haven for raising their young, no easy task on an island with an extremely healthy Arctic fox population. We looked down upon black-legged kittiwakes, gliding gracefully along the cliff face while coming and going from their nests. But the highlight of it all had to be spotting the coral-red legs of the red-legged kittiwake, perched on a ledge high over the sea. This species breeds only on four island groups, all of which are located in the Bering Sea.

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