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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


South Polar Skua

Catharacta maccormicki

South Polar Skua photo in California by Steve Mirick

South Polar Skua photographed in California by Steve Mirick

Southern Hemisphere Breeder
Southern hemisphere breeder mostly around Antarctica. Largest population around the Ross Sea Area Harrison (1983) Breeds from October to February . Hybridizes with Brown Skua. Juveniles are wanderers and disperse north in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans and can appear in northern waters during our summer. Appears off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland along with Great Skuas. . Competes with the Arctic Tern as a long distance migrant. Olsen(2007)

Does not breed until between 7 and 9 years of age. Olsen(2007) Adults stay close to breeding areas during the breeding months of October and February. Nests in loose colonies on bare ground with thin layers of lichens and mosses, mostly in sheltered depression free of ice and snow. Olsen(2007)

While breeding, feeds primarily on fish and krill and to a lesser extent on penguin eggs, weak chicks and occasionally colaborates with other skuas to take a weak adult penguin and other seabirds.

Outside of the breeding season feeds mostly on fish which they catch by plunge diving. Olsen(2007) Not as successful at kleptoparisitism as other skuas and jaegers. May be scavangers on dead animals or in garbage dumps.

High Survival Rate
The yearly survival rate of adults is 90% Olsen (2007) and this is comparable with other skuas and jaegers.

In a word complicated. If you are serious about field identification of South Polar Skua and other skuas and jaegers get Olsen(2007) and spend lots of time studying it. Take lots of pictures.

In general, it is less powerful looking than Great Skua with which it may be rarely associated in our area and it is the grayest of the skuas and jaegers lacking warm brown tones. Olsen(2007) Usually you will be comparing it with Parasitic or Pomerine Jaegers in our area. The first characteristic I noticed when I saw my first Great Skua in the Orkney Islands which was flying near a Parasitic Jaeger was that the wings were much broader.

How To See in ABA Area
Finding South Polar Skua off the east coast is tough. Take extended pelagic trips that includes the Continental Shelf edge and get very lucky. One was photographed on Stellwagen Bank by Peter Trull.  Much easier to see on a California pelagic. Check with California birding web sites as to the appropriate time of year. The author saw one South Polar Skua on one of many California trips. Better to target other wonderful California birds and just hope you get lucky on this one


South Polar Skua photo California Steve Mirick

 South Polar Skua photographed in California by Steve Mirick.

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

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

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