Stercorariidae – Skuas & jaegers

This family is proficient in robbing other birds of their prey and devouring anything they can get

These aggressive seabirds are well-adapted to a life spent predominantly at sea, with breeding grounds in more northern reaches. This family includes several species known for their bold behavior, particularly their habit of kleptoparasitism – chasing other birds to steal their catch.

Skuas are medium to large-sized birds with plumage that generally ranges from dark brown to lighter shades, and some species exhibit white underparts at certain stages of their lives. Their long, pointed wings and streamlined bodies are built for speed and endurance, enabling them to perform acrobatic chases after other birds. The tails of skuas are another distinctive feature, particularly in the Stercorarius species, which often have elongated central tail feathers, giving them a dashing appearance.

The bill of a skua is another testament to their predatory lifestyle. Medium in length, robust, and hooked at the end, it is an effective tool for catching and tearing apart their prey. Their legs are short but powerful, and their webbed feet are well-suited to their aquatic lifestyle, aiding in swimming and taking off from the water’s surface.

Skuas are pelagic outside of the breeding season, meaning they spend much of their time over the open ocean, often near the shore, and are rarely seen on land except when nesting. They breed on islands or in the inland tundra, making ground nests that are simple scrapes, often lined with vegetation or feathers.

All members of the Stercorariidae family breed in high latitude regions of northern Europe, Asia, North America, southern South America, and the sub-Antarctic islands. The harsh conditions of these breeding areas require skuas to be hardy and resourceful, traits that are reflected in their versatile hunting and foraging techniques.