20 August 2018

Banded Black-legged Kittiwake in Quebec Hails from France

On 01 August 2018, Jean-Guy Beaulieu found and photographed a banded 1st summer Black-legged Kittiwake in Les Escoumins, Quebec. I happened on his photo a few days later while looking through eBird data.

1st Summer Black-legged Kittiwake sporting a distinctive leg band combination.
St. Lawrence River in Baie des Escoumins. Courtesy Jean-Guy Beaulieu.

Having never seen a photo of a kittiwake with color bands before, I began to suspect there might be a good story behind this bird. I posted an inquiry on North American Gulls and received zero replies. A couple of weeks later Craig Taylor and Maarten Van Kleinwee directed me to a couple of sites/conctacts that may be of help. I did a little more investigating and eventually received a reply from French biologist Jean-Yves Monnat. Yes. France! Monnat replied back with:

That bird is one of "ours".

V/W/métal - V/R/B (Paris FX25562)

Born : 2017 (12/06 ± 3d.) in pointe du Raz colony (Plogoff, Finistère, Brittany, France : 48°02N - 04°43W)
First flight : 24/07/2017
Last seen on its nest : 03/08/2017
Emancipation period : 11 days

A lot of our birds are captured on western coast of Greenland. Very (very !) few on Newfounland. This sighting is the first one on the mainland of America (our study started in 1979, 40 years ago).
Thanks a lot for that interesting information. JY.

So there you have it - at about 14 months old, this bird is now on the other side of the Atlantic hanging out with a large group of ~800 Black-legged Kittiwakes! Which begs a question that hadn't really occurred to be before this: What degree of gene flow exists between European and North American kittiwakes? Will this bird return to its natal colony or will it now make Canada its new home? Questions like these can only be answered with such bird-banding studies and GPS tracking.

Congratulations to Jean-Guy on a great find. I'm told the bird was relocated at the same site on 14 August 2018. A special thanks to Craig and Maarten for directing me in the right direction.