Male Arctic Skua

Arctic Skua

Scientific name: Stercorarius parasiticus

Did you know: Arctic Skuas are formidable in the air, often seen engaging in dramatic chases to snatch food from other birds mid-flight!

What Do Arctic Skuas Look Like? (how to identify them)

Arctic Skuas are medium-sized seabirds notable for their robust build and elongated wings. 

They boast a predominantly dark brown plumage, contrasted by a distinctive white patch under their wings, visible during flight. Their facial features are marked by a striking white ‘eyebrow’ stripe above each eye and a sharply hooked bill. 

During the breeding season, males may sport a reddish-brown band across their breast, adding to their distinctive appearance.

Differences Between Male and Female Arctic Skuas

Male and female Arctic Skuas can be distinguished by subtle differences during the breeding season. Typically, males develop a richer, reddish-brown tint on their breast, whereas females generally maintain a more uniform plumage. 

Both sexes share the characteristic white wing patches and eyebrow stripes, making them equally striking.

What Do Arctic Skuas Eat?

Arctic Skuas have a varied diet, primarily feeding on fish, small birds, and mammals. 

Remarkably, they are also known for their kleptoparasitic behaviour, where they aggressively chase other birds to steal their catches. This diet is supplemented by eggs and the young of other bird species, particularly during the breeding season.

Where Do Arctic Skuas Live? (including migration info)

Arctic Skuas breed on the northern and western coasts of Scotland, including the Shetland and Orkney islands. After the breeding season, they embark on a lengthy migration to sub-Saharan Africa and South American coasts. 

This migration showcases their incredible endurance and adaptability to varying environments.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Arctic Skuas)

The vocalisations of Arctic Skuas are as distinctive as their flight patterns. Their calls include a nasal mewing, often heard during aerial displays, and a sharp, alarm-like sound when they perceive threats. 

These calls play a crucial role in their social interactions and territorial defence.

Fun Arctic Skua Facts (kid friendly)

  • Arctic Skuas can chase birds much larger than themselves, showing off their daring flight skills!
  • They travel thousands of miles between their breeding and wintering grounds every year.
  • The juveniles can be tricky to identify because they look so similar to other jaeger species.
  • They have a taste for eggs and can often be spotted raiding the nests of other birds.
  • Watching an Arctic Skua chase another bird is like watching an aerial dance – fast, precise, and sometimes a bit cheeky!
  • From the coasts of Scotland to the shores of Africa and South America, these birds see a lot of the world.
  • During breeding, they fiercely protect their nests, showing their dedication to family.
  • They love the marine environment, making islands and coastal areas their favourite spots.
  • Their bold behaviour is matched by their striking appearance, making them unforgettable.

Facts About The Arctic Skua

Diet: They eat fish, dead birds, dead mammals, eggs and young birds
Bird Family: Skuas
Length: 40 - 45cm
Wingspan: 110 - 125cm
Weight: 330 - 570g
Scientific Name: Stercorarius parasiticus

The Arctic Skua Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November

Arctic Skua Images

Male Arctic Skua Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile