Identification of Great Skua

The Birder's Market | Resource | Birds of Britain and Europe ID Guide | Skuas | Great Skua Stercorarius skua |  Identification of Great Skua

Great Skua Stercorarius skua L53-66CM

Catharacta skua
The Great Skua breeds in loose colonies in the North Atlantic, the other three in the genus Catharacta are found in the southern oceans.The largest and heaviest of the northern skuas.Frequently shows a raised head and in flight is barrel-chested, unformly brown and shows brilliant white wing flashes both above and below, this being the main field characteristics.Resembles a large gull with steady slow wingbeats and occasional gliding.Will chase other seabirds up to the size of a gannet with great agility forcing them to the surface and often killing gulls.

The Skuas

As a small group of seabirds specialising in piracy, the skuas are one of the most difficult to identify.For a lot of birders, the opportunity for viewing these ariel pirates may be brief during times of migration, others with an 'inland patch' , may be totally unfamiliar with them.
Leaving aside the larger Great Skua or 'Bonxie' the other three species share many general features including a fast direct flight and pointed wings, reminicent of a falcon.
From an identification point of view, the wide range of plumage variations, colour morphs and the various immature stages, make them a small but tricky group.Even the 'best' field guides use words such as 'generally' 'sometimes' and 'majority' when describing this group.
In this guide we point out the key differences that commonly feature in lighter phased adult birds and suggest further reading that will hopefully banish those ID fears.This is a general introduction and we strongly advise further reading of the titles below, as juveniles and immature plumages can appear very similar.

Skua Flight ID Quick guideSkua Flight ID Quick guide
showing four species of skua
click for a larger image...

Skuas and Jaegers.

Skuas and Jaegers.

Recommended further reading

Skuas and Jaegers.

Klaus Malling Olsen,illustrated by Hans Larsson
" Anyone who wants to learn more about these avian pirates should turn to Skuas and Jaegers. his volume puts the world's skuas into sharp perspective, and sorts out identification pitfalls " David Tomlinson, New Scientist .........

Highly recommended Click here for ordering details.....

The Skuas (Poyser)The Skuas (Poyser)
Robert W.Furness.Many birdwatchers may never have seen a skua;those who have will most probably have vivid memories of one or other species flying powerfully past a headland or twisting and diving in pursuit of its piratical intentions towards a food-laden seabird-or,perhaps more memorable still,of themselves taking evasive action from the power-diving irate skua whose territory they have unwisely invaded.The full classification of the skuas is still debated,but Dr Furness of the Applied Ornithology Unit,Glasgow University,favours six species,of two genera,with five sub-species,based on current knowledge of his own long and dedicated field studies and research.
Hardback;1987.363pp.b/w photos,sketches,line drawings,maps,charts etc.
Click here for ordering details.....
Flight Identification of European Seabirds

Flight Identification of European Seabirds

Flight Identification of European Seabirds
Bertil Breife, Anders Blomdahl, Niklas Holmstrom
'Even the most avid seawatcher is going to find plenty of new information. For anyone just getting into the arcane art of seawatching, this book will prove a Godsend.' Bird Watching
This is an essential guide for seawatching, specifically designed to address the particular problems and limitations of this kind of birding. The authors have selected the very best and most useful images of European seabirds in flight, and complemented them with a detailed, identification-focussed text.
This is a unique work that will surely become a standard part of every seawatcher’s kit.

The Birder's Market | Resource | Birds of Britain and Europe ID Guide | Skuas | Great Skua Stercorarius skua |  Identification of Great Skua

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