Acoustic features are important for individual and species recognition. However, while dialectal variations in song characteristics have been described in many songbirds, geographical divergence in vocal features across populations has seldom been studied in birds that are not thought to have song-learning abilities. Here, we document marked differences in the vocal structure of calls of two populations of black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), a seabird whose call is considered as not being learned from other individuals. We found that calls vary both within and between populations. Within-population variation may convey individual identity, whereas the marked differences in frequency and temporal parameters observed between the two populations may reveal ongoing divergence among kittiwake populations. Moreover, we were unable to detect any sex signature in adult calls in a Pacific population (Middleton, Alaska), while these were detected in an Atlantic population (Hornoya, Norway), potentially affecting sexual behaviours. Despite the fact that these calls seemed to change over the reproductive season and across years, the individual signature remained fairly stable. Such vocal differences suggest that Pacific and Atlantic populations may be undergoing behavioural divergences that may reveal early stages of speciation, as is suggested by molecular data. (C) 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 97, 289-297.