Sean spotted the first Arctic Skua, stercorarius parasiticus, off Staithes this year on 11th July. It was mobbing the herring gulls for their food, it’s a common habit of Skuas to chase and harasses gulls, terns and guillemots until they drop their prey which the skua quickly picks up and swallows.
The Arctic Skua is a medium sized bird with pale patches at the end of it’s pointed wings. It can be seen in the late spring early summer on the breeding grounds and later on passage along the coast when migrating to Western Africa. The Shetland & Orkney Islands are the best places to see Arctic Skuas during breeding times or on the coastal moorlands of Scotland.
The RSPB have given the Arctic Skua a ‘red status‘, this means that it is a high conservation priority.
The Great Skua, catharacta skua, breeds not only across northern Europe but it’s also to be found on the opposite side of the world breeding from the Antarctic Coast to Tierra del Fuego. These birds eat fish, carrion and other birds, it’s also advisable not to get to close to these birds while they are breeding as they show no fear for humans and dive-bomb anyone getting too close.
Thanks again to John Pethullis for giving us permission to use another of his wonderful photos.