Long-tailed Skua

The Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudus), is a seabird in the Skua family Stercorariidae. It is found in the high Arctic of Eurasia and North America. Large populations are found in Russia, Alaska and Canada, and other smaller populations are scattered around the rest of the Arctic. It winters in the south Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Many juveniles will hunt for food on golf courses and plowed fields and are usually quite fearless of humans.

It is the smallest Skua at 15 inches in length. The elongated central tail feathers of the summer adult can add up to another 7 – 8 inches in length however. This species is unmistakable as an adult, with gray back, dark primary wing feathers, black cap and very long tail. Juvenile Long-tailed Skua are difficult to distinguish from the Arctic Skua in flight. They are slimmer, longer-winged and more tern-like than that species, but show the same wide range of plumage variation.

These birds nest on dry tundra or on high fells. The female lays two spotted olive-brown eggs. They can be heard making a yelping or rattling noise on the breeding grounds. They spend most of their non-breeding season over the open ocean and have a harsh “˜kreeah’ cry. They feed mainly on lemmings. Numbers fluctuate with food supply. They may steal food from other birds, such as terns and gulls.

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