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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus

This slender-winged sea bird, also called the parasitic or Arctic jaeger, is exceptionally fast and maneuverable in the air—a skill that is central to the way it feeds.

There are several color forms among Arctic skuas, which differ in their proportion of brown and gray, but all have streamers that give their tails a sharp central point. This species catches fish, but it is better known as a kleptoparasite, which steals food from other birds.

The Arctic skua swoops down on gulls and terns as they return from the sea, chasing them and often gripping their tail feathers with its bill. Its victims react by disgorging food, which the skua deftly intercepts in midair. Arctic skuas also hunt small land animals and steal eggs and chicks from nests. They nest on the ground and winter at sea.

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Arctic Skuazoom image
  • Order Charadriiformes
  • Length 18–26 in (46–65 cm)
  • Weight 14–21 oz (400–600 g)
  • Habitat Coasts, tundra, moorland, open sea
  • Distribution Northern waters (breeding); throughout Southern Hemisphere (non-breeding)
Arctic Skua habitat mapzoom image