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Charadriiformes > Stercorariidae

South Polar Skua

Stercorarius maccormicki

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Identification

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Bulky cold-brown seabird with white wing flashes. Usually seen singly in strong and direct flight, sometimes resting on the ocean with rafts of shearwaters. Chases gulls, large shearwaters, and even boobies, forcing them to regurgitate their food. Plumage overall rather plain, dark gray-brown, suggesting a muscular immature gull but with big white wing flashes, like the smaller, more lightly built jaegers. Often shows a pale blaze across the nape. Some birds have very pale blonde head and body. Breeds in Antarctica, further south than almost any other species of bird. Ranges across all oceans, mainly from March to October, typically staying offshore and very rarely seen from land. Compare with other skua species. In North Atlantic, Great Skua is warmer-toned, has a more capped or hooded appearance, and adults have golden spangles on upperparts. Separation from Brown Skua in Southern Hemisphere is more problematic; there are multiple populations of Brown Skuas and hybrids with South Polar are quite frequent! South Polar averages smaller-billed and slightly less bulky than Brown, and never has bold streaks or spangles on upperparts, but many birds are best left unidentified.

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South Polar Skua

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