GREAT SKUA(Stercorarius skua) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Great Skua adult is medium brown with lighter streaks. Eyes, bill, legs and webbed feet are black. Bill upper mandible ends with a small hook. Wings show a distinctive white patch at base of primaries. Juveniles have a more uniform brown color. Bird length is around 55 cm (22 inches).
NAME: ‘Skua’ is the Faroese name for that bird, part of the same genus as the Jaegers. Latin genus name ‘Stercorarius’ refers to ‘dung’, as this species goes after fish scraps (offal) from fishing vessels.
HABITAT: Open oceans.
DIET: Birds, fish, also carrion. This skua attacks birds in flight (even the larger Great Black-backed Gull) by grabbing their wing, which makes the bird fall into the water.
NESTING: Nests in loose colonies not far from other seabird species. Usually two green-brown eggs are laid, incubated by both parents. Chicks fed by female.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds in Iceland, Norway and Scottish islands. Outside breeding season can be found over north Atlantic Ocean.
Distribution Map: – /media/File:Stercorarius_skua_map.svg
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, sightings listed as ‘accidental’ so far. See note below on bird vagrancy.
CONSERVATION: Population widespread, not at risk.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger
REFERENCES: (Norwegian Polar Institute) (British Trust for Ornithology) (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

Great Skua – Iceland – June 2011 – photo by Ómar Runólfsson
Great skua, Iceland, Ómar Runólfsson
Great Skua attacking Northern Gannet – St Kilda, Scotland – June 2010 – photo by Kognos
Great skua attacking Northern gannet
Great Skua close up – Handa Island, Scotland – July 2014 – photo by Elrond
Great skua close up, Scotland, by Elrond
Great Skua in flight – Runde, Norway – June 2012 – photos by Chell Hill
Great skua taking flight, by Chell Hill
Great Skua protecting nest – Shetland – May 2008 – photo by Murray Nurse
Great skua protecting nest, Murry Nurse