Stercorarius – Skuas & jaegers

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

These medium to large birds are characterized by their dark brown plumage, which, in some species and morphs, is contrasted with striking white underparts. Their long, pointed wings and elongated tails, particularly the central tail feathers that are conspicuously longer in some species, give them a distinctive silhouette.

Skuas are equipped with strong, hooked bills designed for their predatory lifestyle. They are known for their fierce behavior, especially when hunting or defending their territories. Their legs are short but powerful, ending in webbed feet that attest to their life spent predominantly at sea.

These birds are aquatic, spending much of their time soaring over the ocean’s waves, often near shorelines. However, they come to land to breed, selecting isolated islands or the remote tundra of the northern and southern hemispheres as their nesting grounds. Their choice of breeding locations is strategic, offering protection from predators and proximity to food sources.

The diet of skuas is varied and opportunistic. They feed on a mix of fish, carrion, and smaller birds, which they are known to chase and harass until their prey drops their catch — a behavior known as kleptoparasitism. Skuas are also known to consume eggs and insects, showcasing their adaptability in terms of diet.

Their nesting behavior is quite unique; skuas build their nests on the ground, often in a simple scrape lined with vegetation or feathers. During the breeding season, skuas are highly territorial and are known for their aggressive defense of their nest sites, sometimes even attacking humans who venture too close.

Skuas breed in a variety of locations across the globe, from northern Europe and Asia to North America. They are also found in the southern reaches of South America and on the sub-Antarctic islands, where they can be seen engaging in their characteristic flight patterns and foraging behaviors.