Great skua

Jack Sparrow of the bird kingdom

Elrond

The Great Skua, often nicknamed “Bronxie” by locals in the Shetland Islands, is a formidable seabird renowned for its predatory behavior and robust nature. As one of the largest and most aggressive members of the skua family, this bird exhibits a range of fascinating adaptations and behaviors that set it apart from other marine birds.

During the breeding season, the Great Skua adopts a strategy of opportunistic predation, frequently targeting and assaulting other seabirds to obtain food. This behavior, known as kleptoparasitism, involves the skua harassing and sometimes killing smaller birds, such as gannets and gulls, to steal their catch. This ruthless approach to foraging ensures a vital food source for the skua’s own survival and that of its offspring.

Outside of the breeding season, when it is not preoccupied with nesting duties, the Great Skua ventures further offshore, where it scavenges and piratically acquires food from fishing vessels and other seabirds. This adaptability and versatility in feeding behavior highlight the skua’s ability to exploit a variety of food sources in its marine environment.

Despite its reputation as a formidable predator, the Great Skua is also a highly migratory species, undertaking extensive journeys by sea during migration. During the winter months, it can often be observed in flocks several kilometers offshore, where it congregates in areas rich in marine life and fisheries discards.

In terms of habitat preferences, the Great Skua exhibits a preference for nesting on islands with flat terrain and some vegetation cover. These nesting sites provide suitable breeding grounds where the skuas can establish loose colonies numbering in the thousands. This colonial nesting behavior offers benefits such as increased protection from predators and enhanced foraging opportunities in proximity to other seabird colonies.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Algeria
2018
Anguilla
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Antigua & Barbuda
2018
Austria
2018
Passage
Barbados
2018
Belgium
2018
Belize
2018
Bermuda
2018
Vagrant
Brazil
2018
British Virgin Is.
2018
Origin Uncertain
Bulgaria
2018
Non-Breeding
Canada
2018
Cape Verde
2018
Colombia
2018
Croatia
2018
Vagrant
Cuba
2018
Vagrant
Cyprus
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Czechia
2018
Vagrant
Côte D’ivoire
2018
Vagrant
Denmark
2018
Passage
Dominica
2018
Egypt
2018
Faroe Islands
500 pairs
Official estimate
LC
2018
Breeding
Finland
2018
Vagrant
France
2018
French Guiana
2018
Gambia
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Germany
2018
Ghana
2018
Vagrant
Gibraltar
2018
Non-Breeding
Greece
2018
Vagrant
Greenland
2018
Non-Breeding
Guadeloupe
2018
Non-Breeding
Guinea-Bissau
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Guinea
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Guyana
2018
Hungary
2018
Vagrant
Iceland
5,400 pairs
Official estimate
LC
2018
Breeding
Ireland
15 pairs
Official estimate
LC
2018
Breeding
Israel
2018
Vagrant
Italy
2018
Non-Breeding
Latvia
2018
Vagrant
Lebanon
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Liberia
2018
Vagrant
Libya
2018
Lithuania
2018
Vagrant
Luxembourg
2018
Vagrant
Malta
2018
Vagrant
Martinique
2018
Mauritania
2018
Montenegro
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Montserrat
2018
Morocco
2018
Netherlands
2018
Non-Breeding
Nigeria
2018
Vagrant
Norway
115 pairs
Official estimate
LC
2018
Breeding
Panama
2018
Poland
2018
Vagrant
Portugal
2018
Non-Breeding
Puerto Rico
2018
Romania
2018
Vagrant
Russia
90–100 pairs
Official estimate
LC
2018
Breeding: European Russia
Russia
2018
Non-Breeding: Central Asian Russia
Saint Lucia
2018
Saint Pierre
2018
Non-Breeding
Saint Vincent
2018
Senegal
2018
Vagrant
Serbia
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Sierra Leone
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Slovakia
2018
Slovenia
2018
Vagrant
Spain
2018
Non-Breeding
St. Kitts & Nevis
2018
Suriname
2018
Svalbard
600–1500 pairs
Official estimate
LC
2018
Breeding
Sweden
2018
Switzerland
2018
Non-Breeding
Syria
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Trinidad & Tobago
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Tunisia
2018
Turkey
2018
Vagrant
US Virgin Islands
2018
Origin Uncertain
United Kingdom
2018
Breeding
United States
2018
Non-Breeding
Venezuela
2018
Seasonality Uncertain

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No