South Polar Skua

Smaller in features but no less aggressive than most skuas , these Antarctic seabirds will attack humans who venture too close to their nests

South Polar Skua

Name: South Polar Skua, MacCormick’s Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki)

Length: 50 cm.

Weight: 900 to 1600 grams.

Location: Antarctic. Winters in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

Conservation status: Least Concern.

Diet: Fish, birds, rabbits, carrion.

Appearance: Gull-like, dirty brown or grey with darker wings. Barrel chest. Blue hooked bill. Broad, round wings.

How do Southern Polar Skuas feed?

A large portion of the fish that South Polar Skuas eat is obtained by bullying other smaller birds out of their catches. It will also dive or pluck fish from just under the surface.

Are Southern Polar Skuas social?

Southern Polar Skuas tend to be territorial, chasing off competitors within their feeding territory. Some will form loose colonies during breeding season, but mating pairs may also choose to make their nests in a solitary location.

During feeding they can be found in noisy flocks of up to about 100 individuals.

How fast do South Polar Skuas fly?

South Polar Skuas can reach flight speeds of up to 50 km per hour.

What are South Polar Skua birthing rituals like?

South Polar Skuas reach sexual maturity around 6 years of age. They tend to be monogamous, the pair returning to the same nesting site from one year to the next. Nests are little more than scratches or scrapes in the ground that is clear of any ice or snow.

The female lays an average of 2 eggs in either November or December. Both adults take turns incubating the eggs for a month.

The eggs tend to hatch a few days apart with the first hatchling being larger than the second. The chicks are able to move about a day or two after hatching but will not fly for at least another month.

The older chick quite often will either drive the younger hatchling from the nest leaving it to die or will just kill it outright.

South polar skuas on Deception Island

How long do South Polar Skuas live?

South Polar Skuas live for about 10 years in the wild.

How many South Polar Skuas are there today?

Estimates place the worldwide South Polar Skua population at over 15,000 adult individuals.

Do South Polar Skuas have any natural predators?

South Polar Skuas don’t really face any natural predators, but they have low success rates at breeding which makes maintaining their population difficult.

7 Superlative South Polar Skua Facts

1. South Polar Skua females are larger than the males.

2. South Polar Skuas are the greyest members of the Skua species.

3. South Polar Skuas have a huge migratory range, some wintering as far north as Alaska and Greenland.

4. Although South Polar Skuas enjoy penguin eggs they have a hard time getting to them since their cousins the Brown Skuas tend to control the penguin colony territories, chasing away any competition.

5. South Polar Skuas tend to be slighter in the body, thinner in the bill, smaller in the head, and narrower in the wings than other Skuas.  

6. South Polar Skuas will attack humans if they get too close to their nests.

7. When not breeding South Polar Skuas are mainly pelagic (live entirely at sea).   

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