Arctic Skua - Hebridean Birds
Western Isles Birds - Arctic Skuas - though scarce, these birds which are very powerful majestic seabirds.

These birds are a medium sized seabird, seen here in The Western Isles.

There are two forms or "morphs" - one being almost totally a dark chocolate brown colour - except for the white on the wing tips and the other having a pale cream belly and yellow cheek.

Arctic Skuas are the most common skuas in Europe

Hooded Crow -  Western Isles Bird Sightings
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Bird Overview - Arctic Skua
Arctic Skuas
Latin name
Stercorarius parasiticus


Similar Species
Pomarine Skua
Long Tailed Skuas
Great Skua
Arctic skuas are the most common skua in Europe - identifiable by its pointed tail. This bird is a medium-sized seabird with pointed wings, dark with pale patches at the tips of the wings. The adults have the two long pointed feathers sticking beyond the rest of the tail as a single central prong. Juveniles lack this prong and show a variable amount of barring in their plumage.

The arctic skuas come in two very distinct forms, or "morphus" - a light morph in which the breast and belly are a pale creamy white - with yellowish cheeks - and the second type are a dark morph - with the entire underparts being chocolate brown in colour.

Both these forms are not separate races and infact they do interbreed with each other. You do get mixed pairs frequently.

as the name suggests Arctic Skuas are found around the Arctic though in fact they breed much further south. Skuas annually migrate to winter in the Southern Hemisphere

Size : 41 - 46 cm
Wingspan: 118 cm
Weight: M/F: 450 g - 600g

In summer it is most easily seen in the Shetland and Orkney islands, and on some coastal moorlands of north and west Scotland; on passage best looked for from coasts in August and September, especially in areas near tern colonies where there are good numbers of feeding terns.

These seabirds are sometimes referred to as avian pirates as skuas steal a lot of their food from terns and other seabirds that are carrying fish back to their nests and young

In the summer food is mostly birds, small mammals, insects - whilst on the winter its fish, mostly by piracy from other birds

In summer these birds have a loud nasal wailing noise - but at sea are silent.
These skuas breed on moorland near sea and winter at sea. They are monogamous forming lifelong partnerships - which is perhaps why they are so aggressive towards any males nearby. They nest hollow on ground in moss or heather.

There are two eggs and the skuas have only one brood between May and June. Once the young leave the nest, they may not visit land for two years—until they have themselves reached breeding age.

Misc. Info
Arctic Skuas are also known as the Parasitic Jaeger, as they have an extraordinary habit of hunting down other seabirds - chasing then in mid air until they have dropped their catch or regurgitated it. This habit called "kleptoparasitism" means that they are feared by the other seabirds.

They will also target human intruders if they are near their nests and can hit them with their powerful feet.
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