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 New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Jaegers and Skuas
Pomarine Jaeger
Parasitic Jaeger
Long-tailed Jaeger
South Polar Skua
Great Skua

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Jaegers and Skuas


Great Skua


Catharacta skua

Great Skua in Shetland Island EB Tarry

Great Skua photographed in the Shetland Island with a point and shoot camera by EB Tarry

Other Names
Great Skua was formerly lumped with the bird now known as Brown Skua of the southern hemisphere. Australian bird books may refer to the skua seen in their waters as Great Skua rather than Brown Skua. Also called Bonxie.

How To See in ABA area and on breeding ground
Seeing this bird in New England is a hard go. Skuas seen in the summer and fall are most probably South Polar Skuas and the Great Skua has not been identified on Stellwagen Bank even in winter. The Maine Audubon Fall Pelagic out of Bar Harbor has been successful at seeing this bird.
Since it is very hard to take an offshore winter pelagic in New England your best bet to list this bird for North America is to take a winter pelagic trip from New Jersey or further south. To see the bird on the breeding grounds go to the Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands or Iceland. See Trip Reports -Seabird Colonies of Wales, Ireland, Scotland 2003

Iceland, Faeroe Islands, Shetland Islands, Orkney Island and to a lesser extent in Norway and Northern Russia.Usually breeds in loose colonies of up to 100 pairs on wet moorlands favoring those with small rises. Most colonies are near other seabird colonies such as Kittiwakes and Puffins on which they prey..DisbursalBreeding adults usually stay near the breeding grounds. Immature birds range further in the first and especially the second winter. Most range on the eastern side of the Atlantic down to Africa.

Iceland birds are seen on the east coast of the North America all the way to the coast of Brazil

Described as an opportunistic feeder. Breeds near colonies of Puffins and Kittiwakes and uses kleptoparisitism to steal food. Also preys on Puffins directly. Takes eggs from Kittiwakes. On land takes Lemmings and other small mammals. At sea takes small land birds that stray offshore. It also fishes taking Sand-eels.

Great Skua on Nantucket Shoals
Great Skua on the August 28, 2010 BBC Offshore PelagicOn the August 2010 offshore pelagic this Great Skua was seen and photographed in the vicinity of Nantucket Shoals. This was probably a second year bird hatched in Iceland.  Here are two photos of the same Great Skua from this trip shared by Jim Hully. . Nice job Jim. Thanks for sharing.

Great Skua Jim Hully Great Skua Jim Hully

Breeding Great Skuas on the Orkney and Shetland Islands
If you really want to experience Great Skuas watch them in a breeding colony. This is easy to do in the Orkney and Shetland Islands in the sea north of Scotland.  Both groups of island have small populations.  Good roads and rental car options provide easy access. Hostels provide cheap,comfortable living.   To learn more see Trip Reports. The follow pictures were taken by Emmalee Tarry with a point and shoot Cannon camera.

Great Skua Hoy in Orkney Islands EB Tarry

Great Skua in small breeding colony on the island of Hoy in the Orkney Islands.  Emmalee Tarry.

Great Skua Shetland Islands EB Tarry

 Great Skua in Shetland Islands. Notice short tail and broad, pointed wings with large white flashes. See also the picture at the top of the page.

Seabirds | Jaegers & Skuas Pomarine jaeger | Parasitic Jaeger Long-tailed Jaeger South Polar Skua | Great Skua

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Harrison, Peter (1983) Seabirds an identification guide Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston

Olsen, Klaus Mailing & Larsson, Hans (1997) Skuas and Jaegers A Guide to the Skuas and Jaegers of the World Yale University Press New Haven and London