Category: Sea Bird Other
The Great Skua is the largest skua species, hence its name.
All in a Name
The Great Skua has the species name Stercorarius skua. The Great Skua is part of the Stercorariidae family.
The Great Skua is sometimes called the bonxie in England. In Norse, it is called storjo. In French, it is called Grand labbe.
The Great Skua is a dark brown bird that resembles a sea gull. The Great Skua has light brown and white on its body and head with dark black and brown tail feathers. The Great Skua has large rounded wings. The wings are mostly black with a white stripe on the end. The back has rust-yellow or yellow-white dappling. The Great Skua has dark eyes and a dark grey, hooked bill. The male and female are similar in appearance.
Juveniles are entirely brown and gain adult color contrasts as they age. The Great Skua birds are sexually mature at seven to eight years of age.
This is the largest skua species. The Great Skua weighs two and a half to five pounds.
The Great Skua birds nest in coastal moorland. The Great Skua may nest in scattered groupings or large colonies. The nests themselves are a shallow depression on flat ground, lined with vegetation. Eggs are laid in early June, while both adults take turns incubating them for a month. The average nest has two eggs in it. The young are fledged over six to seven weeks. Most chicks return to where they were hatched to lay their own eggs.
The Great Skua bird aggressively defends its territory against humans. The Great Skua are especially aggressive during the breeding system.
When the Great Skua nest in small groups, they will feed on other sea birds. When they nest in large groups, they tend to rely on fish. The Great Skua will steal fish from other sea birds where possible. The Great Skua will feed on fish discards. The Great Skua feed heavily on sand lance, which form dense schools. The Great Skua will eat the eggs and chicks of many other bird species, like puffins and kittiwakes. The Great Skua will eat small mammals like rabbits if little other food is available.
The Great Skua is a sea bird, feeding on fish, fish discards, or other sea birds. The Great Skua breed near the coast, usually by a bird cliff or gull colony.
The Great Skua bird spends the winter off the coast of Spain and Africa. The Great Skua spends the summer breeding season in Scotland and northern Europe. The Great Skua's numbers have been increasing since the start of the 20th century, so it has only recently been found in Norwegian areas.
Around 60% of the Great Skua's breeding range is in Scotland, particularly around the Shetland Islands and Orkney, though some are found near the Barents Sea. The largest breeding colony in the world is in Orkney, and the second in Hoy. The breeding colony is Svalbard is estimated at several hundred pairs. The Great Skua has recently started nesting in Northern Ireland.
The Great Skua is listed as being of least concern by the IUCN. While it has a very concentrated primary breeding areas (Orkney), its population growth and expanding range make it of little concern for conservation.
The word “Skua” is probably derived from the Faroese word skúvur, making this the only bird regularly known by its Faroe Islands name.