Great Skua

Scientific name: Stercorarius skua

Did you know: The Great Skua, also known as the ‘Bonxie’ in Scotland, is renowned for its bold nature and is the only bird known to originate a name from the Faroes that is used internationally!

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

Great Skuas, with their scientific name Stercorarius skua, are formidable seabirds, roughly the size of a herring gull. They have a robust build and sport a predominantly dark plumage with striking white wing flashes visible in flight. 

Adults are streaked greyish brown with a black cap, whereas juveniles are warmer brown without streaking below. Their powerful flight and short, blunt tail make them easily distinguishable.

Differences Between Male And Female Great Skuas

Males and females are similar in appearance, though females are typically a bit larger. Juveniles, in contrast, lack the adults’ streaking and are darker overall.

What Do Great Skuas Eat?

Great Skuas are opportunistic feeders with a varied diet, including fish, carrion, and other birds like Puffins. They are known for their aggressive piracy, often stealing food from other seabirds mid-flight and even preying on lambs or pony foals. 

Their ability to scavenge from fishing vessels also plays a significant role in their diet.

Where Do Great Skuas Live? (inc. migration info)

Breeding primarily in Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and the Scottish islands, Great Skuas are migratory birds. They spend winters in the Atlantic Ocean, ranging from the coasts of Spain and Africa to North American waters. 

During migration, their presence is especially notable off the southwestern coasts of the UK.

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

Great Skuas are not shy in expressing themselves vocally, especially near their nests. Their call, a harsh hah-hah-hah-hah, and other quacking and croaking sounds are characteristic. They are generally quieter when out at sea.

Fun Great Skua Facts (kid friendly)

  • Great Skuas are sometimes called the “pirates of the seas” due to their habit of stealing food from other birds.
  • They have a wingspan of 125-140cm, which is quite impressive for their size.
  • These birds are bold and fearless, known to dive-bomb humans if they get too close to their nests.
  • Great Skuas can be found in the UK, especially around the northern islands.
  • They migrate impressively long distances, all the way to the coasts of Spain and Africa for wintering.

Great Skua Images

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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

Facts About The Great Skua

Diet: Fish, carrion, other birds.
Bird Family: Skuas
Length: 53-58 cm
Wingspan: 125-140 cm
Weight: 1.2-2 kg
Scientific Name: Stercorarius skua

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

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