Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



Johnsgard, "First Nebraska Kittiwake Specimen," from Nebraska Bird Review (September 1990) 58(3).


Copyright 1990, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.



The Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) has previously been known from Nebraska only from a few sight records. Dr. George Hudson observed one at Oak Creek Park, Lincoln, in March, 1939 (NBR 5:57). Another individual was seen at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster County, during April of 1976. Thirdly, an immature was seen and photographed at Oak LakePark, Lincoln, on April 20-21, 1981 (NBR 49:41). Lastly, during the fall occurrence report for 1988 (NBR 57: 16, 53) Kittiwakes were reported from Cedar and Douglas-northern Sarpy counties, the Cedar County sightings involving up to three first-winter birds and being accompanied by photographs.

In May of 1990, an adult Kittiwake was washed ashore along Lake Ogallala, Keith County, and found by Dr. Daniel Brooks, a parasitologist of the University of Toronto. Not knowing its identity nor realizing its rarity, he nevertheless decided to freeze it for possible later use by ornithologists at Cedar Point Biological Station, rather than to examine it for possible parasites. I subsequently found it in the freezer of the biological station and recognized its rarity. Dr. Brooks was unsure by that time if it had been found on the 20th or 21st of May. The bird, an adult male in full breeding plumage, but with small testes, has been prepared as a skin-skeletal specimen (#16143) of the University of Nebraska State Museum. Mr. Tom Labedz, who prepared the specimen, noted that it apparently died from choking on the bones of a catfish (Ictalurus punctatus).