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Great Skua Stercorarius skua (Catharacta skua)


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Great Skua, adult
credit: Psychofox

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Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family

Description ADULT Dark morph has dark brown plumage overall, with rufous-buff tips to many feathers. Note the white wing "blazes" (pale bases to primaries). Pale adult has pale back and upper wing coverts (as well as head, neck, and underparts), whereas pale South Polar has contrastingly dark back and upper wings. JUVENILE Similar to dark adult, but more reddish brown overall, although sometimes appearing almost black. Wing "blaze" is obvious and pale bill is dark-tipped.

Dimensions Length: 23" (58 cm)

Habitat Breeds in northeast Atlantic (closest colony is on Iceland). Pelagic away from breeding grounds. Occasional in Canadian seas in summer; commoner and more widespread Oct-Mar.

Observation Tips Seldom seen from land. Take a pelagic trip to stand a chance of seeing it.

Range New England, Mid-Atlantic, Eastern Canada

Voice Mostly silent.

Discussion Similar in appearance and habits to South Polar. Differences are subtle: slightly larger bodied and broader winged compared to South Polar, also has larger bill, uniform head and neck color (South Polar's pale neck contrasts with its darker cap and back), and "warmer," overall more rufous plumage. Sexes are similar, but pale and dark adult morphs occur.