South Polar Skua

Stercorarius maccormicki

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Skuas and Jaegers (Stercorariidae)

Code 4

SPSK

Code 6

STEMAC

ITIS

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ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The South Polar Skua is a large seabird found throughout the southern hemisphere. Breeding for this species takes place on Antarctic coastlines. In winter months, the South Polar Skua migrates south to the Pacific Indian and Atlantic Oceans. This species is very protective of its nests, and will fly at an intruder’s head when approaching them. These are built on the ground or along the rocky coasts. Diets consist mainly of fish; these are retrieved by stealing them from gulls, terns and gannets. The South Polar Skua has also been known to kill other seabirds in the quest for food. The conservation rating of the South Polar Skua is currently Least Concern.

IBIRD EXPLORER GENERAL

PHOTO SHARING AND DISCUSSION

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

South Polar Skua Dark: This small, gull-like skua occurs in two color phases. Dark phase adult has a dark brown body with a large white patch at base of primaries visible in flight. Dark bill, thick and heavy; short, broad tail. Light phase adult has pale gray-brown head and underparts. Feeds on fish, krill and squid. Strong direct flight with shallow wing beats. Sexes are similar.


Range and Habitat

South Polar Skua: This species nests in Antarctica in sheltered areas adjacent to penguin colonies. It is highly migratory, travelling to offshore Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America north to subarctic British Columbia and Newfoundland, sometimes straying to the southern coast of Alaska. This species is pelagic, coming ashore only to breed.

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SONGS AND CALLS

Voice Text

"scoo-ah"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • During the summer they stake territories near Adélie penguin rookeries, raiding them for eggs, chicks, and also cleaning up carrion. Thus, they have earned the nickname, 'raptor of the south'.
  • The South Polar Skua is named after the naval surgeon Robert McCormick, who collected the first specimen. They were formerly known as the McCormick’s Skua. They are recognized as the world's most southerly bird and have been sighted at the South Pole.
  • Until recently, all the skuas of the world were thought to be a single species, but now some experts believe there may be as many as five species. On some southern islands, two forms nest side by side without interbreeding, proving that they are different species.
  • A group of skuas are collectively known as a "shishkab" of skuas.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP

CERange Map for South Polar Skua

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

HELP ME IDENTIFY A BIRD

BACKYARD BIRDING

BIRDS AND BIRDING

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UnderpartsX
Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.
PrimariesX
The primaries are the flight feathers specialized for flight. They are attached to the "hand" equivalent part of the wing.
PelagicX
The pelagic is a type of bird whose habitat is on the open ocean rather than in a coastal region or on inland bodies of water (lakes, rivers). An example of a pelagic bird is the blacklegged kittiwake.
UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
BreastX
The upper front part of a bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X