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South Polar Skua Stercorarius maccormicki (Catharacta maccormicki)


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South Polar Skua
credit: Samuel Blanc/CCSA

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Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family

Description ADULT Dark morph has subtly streaked dark brown plumage, apart from white wing "blazes," and paler nape. Pale morph has dark wings and tail, but contrastingly pale buff head, neck, and body. Some morphs are intermediate between these two extremes. JUVENILE Similar to dark morph adult, but with dark-tipped pale bill, paler legs, and no streaking on body.

Dimensions Length: 21" (53 cm)

Habitat Nests in Antarctic and a nonbreeding visitor to North Atlantic, present mainly May-Jul. Mainly pelagic and offshore.

Observation Tips Seldom seen from land. Take a pelagic trip to stand a chance of seeing it.

Range New England, Western Canada, Southeast, Northwest, California, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Silent in North America.

Discussion Powerfully built pelagic seabird. Recalls large, immature gull, but has thickset, cigar-shaped body, thick neck, and relatively broad, short tail and wings that are dark brown, except for bold, white "flash" at base of primaries. Note dark legs and adult's dark, hook-tipped bill. Scavenges, kills smaller birds, and harasses large ones into regurgitating previous meal. Sexes are similar, but adults occur in two extreme morphs and intermediate forms.