Arctic Skua

These far-ranging fliers are known for their love of (and skill for) thievery, pilfering most of their winter migration diet

Antarctic Peninsula

Region: Arctic

Destinations: Svalbard

Name: Arctic Skua, Parasitic Skua, Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus)

Length: 40 to 50 cm.

Weight: 300 to 650 grams.

Location: Breeds in Northern North America, Europe, and Asia. Winters in tropical and southern oceans.

Conservation status: Least Concern.

Diet: Fish, small mammals, small birds, insects.

Appearance: Different colourisations depending on location in world. Lighter versions are brown with white undersides, and a black cap. Darker versions have a dark brown back. A mid-range version also exists. All 3 versions have white flashes on their wings.

How do Arctic Skuas feed?

The most notable method Artic Skuas use to feed is that they steal food from other birds, attacking them while they are flying back with their catch.

Are Arctic Skuas social?

Arctic Skuas will create loose colonies while breeding. They are aggressive in defending their individual nests from other Skuas. Outside of the breeding season they may form small groups of usually no more than 10 individuals.

How fast do Arctic Skuas fly?

Arctic Skuas can reach speeds of up to 50 km per hour.

What are Arctic Skua birthing rituals like?

Arctic Skuas become sexually mature at about 3 years old. They make their nests on tundra and islands, either in loose colonies or in solitary locations. Breeding season is between the middle of May through to the middle of June.


Clutches will contain up to four eggs. The Skuas are extremely aggressive in protecting their nesting sites and will even attack humans by flying straight at their heads.


The adults are monogamous and will share incubating (1 month) and rearing duties. The chick is able to leave the nest about 1 month after hatching.

How long do Arctic Skuas live?

Arctic Skuas can live up to 25 years, although 12 years is more common.

How many Arctic Skuas are there today?

Arctic Skua worldwide population estimates vary wildly, anywhere from 500,000 to 10 million individuals.

Do Arctic Skuas have any natural predators?

Arctic Skua eggs and young are vulnerable to Arctic Foxes.

7 Startling Arctic Skua Facts

1. Jaeger is a German word meaning “hunter.”

2. Although they’re considered a “northern” bird because their breeding grounds are in the north, Arctic Skuas have in fact been spotted as far south as the South Pole during their winter migration period.

3. The Artic Skua’s kleptoparasitism can account for up to 95% of its diet during the winter migration season.

4. The Arctic Skua’s breeding time is matched to that of other birds like the Puffin so that there are lots of victims for the Skuas to steal from during the season.

5. Arctic Skuas are the most numerous of all Skuas that breed in the Arctic regions.

6. Breeding Arctic Skuas have long streamers that fly out past their tail, measuring as long as 10.5 centimetres. Non-breeding mature Arctic Skuas’ streamers are much shorter and are more worn-looking.

7. Scientists think that the white flashes on the wings are the Arctic Skuas’ signal to each other to not steal from them, that they are fellow parasitical hunters.   

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