Great Skua Catharacta skua
(aka Stercorarius skua)
Great Skua, Hoy, Orkney, Scotland, May 2003 - click for larger image

Scotland

The Great Skua breeds near the sea in northern Scotland, Iceland, Faeroes and in arctic and sub-arctic areas of northern Europe. Outside the breeding season it spends almost all its time at sea and ranges from the north Atlantic to the coast of Brazil.

Great Skua, Hoy, Orkney, Scotland, May 2003 - click for larger image They breed on rocky islands and on open coastal moorland where the nest is a mere scrape in the ground. Photo 4 shows a juvenile sitting on the nest.

During the breeding season, the adults defend the nest furiously and will fly at anyone rash enough to approach too closely.

Great Skua, St. Kilda, Scotland, August 2003 - click for larger image They feed mainly on fish which are either caught on the surface or scavenged from fishing boats, etc.. More famously, they steal fish from other sea-birds and, on St Kilda, at least, seem to concentrate on stealing from gannets. Photo 5 shows a Great Skua forcing a Gannet to drop the fish it was carrying back to the nest and photo 6 shows the two birds on the surface where the fish landed.
Great Skua juvenile, St. Kilda, Scotland, August 2003 - click for larger image It is a large, heavy bird about the size of a Herring Gull with a thick-set head and neck. In flight it looks dark apart from the white patches on its primaries visible from above and below.
Great Skua robbing Gannet, St. Kilda, Scotland, August 2003 - click for larger image
Great Skua robbing Gannet, St. Kilda, Scotland, August 2003 - click for larger image
Great Skua, Fetlar, Shetland, Scotland, May 2004 - click for larger image
Great Skua, North Rona, Scotland, May 2005 - click for larger image
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