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South polar skuas (Stercorarius maccormicki) are extraordinary creatures native to Antarctica. These seabirds are one of the most impressive and hardy species in their family, able to take on the harshest conditions that nature has thrown at them. As an ornithologist, I have been fascinated by these remarkable birds for many years and am eager to share my knowledge about them with others.

The south polar skua is a large brown-grayish bird that measures up to 26 inches long and weighs between 1.7 pounds and 2.2 pounds. It’s wingspan stretches 43-46 inches wide making it a strong flier even in windy conditions or high altitudes. Their diet consists mainly of fish which they catch while flying near oceans but can also include smaller mammals, eggs, chicks, insects, carrion and other small items found along the shoreline.

These awe inspiring birds often travel great distances in search of food during breeding season, sometimes as far away as Australia or New Zealand! The south polar skua is known for its aggressive behavior towards predators and rivals alike; however it is still vulnerable due to climate change and human activities such as overfishing which reduce available resources for this species. In this article we will explore further into what makes the south polar skua so unique and how we can help protect them from threats both above land and below sea level!

South polar skua


The south polar skua (Stercorarius maccormicki) is a species of seabird found in the southern hemisphere. Its distinctive physical characteristics and behavior make it easily distinguishable from other avian species. The bird’s body can reach up to 48 centimeters long, with a wingspan of 107-122 centimeters. It has a brownish gray head and neck, dark brown upperparts, pale underbelly and white throat markings. This species also displays prominent white patches on its wings that become more visible during flight.

In terms of behaviour, the south polar skua is an opportunistic hunter, feeding mainly on fish or carrion located near coastal areas. During winter months they will often migrate further inland for food sources, but typically return to nesting sites along coasts as soon as spring begins. Breeding takes place between late October through December at their chosen locations. Generally speaking these birds are solitary creatures outside of mating season when pairs tend to form in order to reproduce offspring successfully.

Though not currently endangered, this species faces potential threats due to climate change altering their habitat and food sources which could affect their population size over time. Therefore researchers must continue monitoring their numbers regularly to monitor any changes in distribution or abundance within specific regions throughout the world where they occur naturally.

Habitat And Range

The southern polar skua, a species of seabird, is found in the polar region. Its habitat range encompasses both land and sea areas; it can be seen on coasts, tundra plains, cliffs, islands, as well as in open ocean waters. The following points summarize its global distribution:

  1. It is most commonly observed across Antarctica including the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula.
  2. In South America it nests along the Tierra del Fuego archipelago off Chile and Argentina.
  3. Breeding colonies have also been recorded in New Zealand’s Subantarctic Auckland Islands and Antipodes Island.
  4. Non-breeding birds have been spotted further north around Greenland’s east coast and Canadian Arctic regions such as Ellesmere Island and Baffin Bay during migration periods from November to April each year.
    In terms of its skua habitat preferences, this species prefers coastal environments with saline water sources where they build their nests out of sticks close to shorelines or inland flatlands flush with vegetation for protection against predators like foxes or feral cats which may prey on eggs during reproductive season. They are mainly scavengers at sea but will hunt small fish when opportunities arise near food sources like penguins colonies or seal haulouts–both of which offer nutrient-rich sustenance that attract them to certain areas within their range more than others. All told, the southern polar skua needs access to land masses and coastal waters alike to sustain itself throughout the year while navigating its large but distinctive range in the Southern Hemisphere’s polar region.

Diet And Feeding Habits

The South Polar Skua is a highly adaptable species in regards to its dietary habits. It primarily relies on two distinct feeding patterns: scavenging and active pursuit of prey. Its primary food sources are fish, small invertebrates, krill, plankton, crustaceans and eggs or nestlings. The skua will also consume carrion if it encounters any in the wild.

In terms of foraging behavior, the South Polar Skua often follows large flocks of seabirds like terns or fulmars in order to locate potential prey items. They have even been known to dive into water from heights up to twenty meters while pursuing their prey. When they detect an item they can feed off of, they will swoop down with great speed and snatch it away before returning back to their habitat.

Due to its vast array of food sources combined with an adept ability at hunting and scavenging, the South Polar Skua is able to survive across multiple environments without difficulty. This impressive versatility has ensured that this bird continues to thrive despite changes in climate or environment over time.

Breeding And Nesting

The South Polar Skua breeds during the Antarctic summer season, from November to February. They choose isolated and remote nesting sites such as rocky islands or coastal cliffs for their nests. Nest construction usually takes about a week with the adults gathering materials such as grasses and moss. The female will lay up to three eggs which are incubated by both parents for an estimated 28 days until hatching.

Once hatched, the chicks rely on parental care for food and warmth while they grow feathers in preparation for flight. Both parents take turns feeding them regurgitated meals of fish, krill, squid and other small animals depending on availability in the area. Parents also teach the young birds how to fly so when it comes time to migrate they can do so successfully.

After around two months, the fledglings leave their nest sites fully capable of survival in the wild. With proper protection, these species have been able to maintain healthy populations across Antarctica despite human pressures in some areas.

Migration Patterns

Having discussed the breeding and nesting habits of South Polar Skuas, we now turn to their migration patterns. The skua’s migratory movements follow a pattern of seasonal movement from north to south in wintering grounds and back again in the summertime to breeding grounds. This species generally follows two main migration routes. One route is along the coastlines of Antarctica and southern South America, while the other is through the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. During these long-distance flights, several stopover sites are used for resting and refueling on food sources available during certain times of year.

South Polar Skuas make extensive use of coastal areas to rest at night or during periods inclement weather. They will utilize estuaries such as bays, gulfs, lagoons and marshes but can also be found near urban centers when searching for food or shelter from storms. It has been observed that some individuals may linger in one area longer than others during their journey due to unfavorable conditions elsewhere or because they have discovered adequate feeding opportunities there.

The overall distance covered by individual birds varies depending upon where they breed each season; however, it is estimated that skuas travel an average of 12,000 kilometers (7456 miles) per year! These impressive feats highlight the extraordinary physical capabilities possessed by this intrepid species which allows them to traverse large distances in search of suitable habitats throughout their annual cycle.

South polar skua

Threats To The Species

The South Polar Skua is a species that faces numerous threats from human activities. Climate change has led to an increase in temperature, which can cause more frequent coastal flooding and reduce the availability of food sources for this species. Commercial fishing also poses a threat as it reduces populations by causing birds to become entangled in nets or hooked on baited lines. Oil spills not only contaminate the environment but can lead to direct mortality when ingested by skuas. Introduced predators such as cats, rats, and foxes are major concerns for this species due to their ability to prey upon eggs and chicks. Finally, human disturbance at breeding colonies may disrupt nesting attempts and even lead to abandonment of nests if disturbances occur frequently enough.

To mitigate these threats, conservation efforts should focus on protecting potential breeding sites from further development or disruption while also reducing the amount of plastic pollution in our oceans. Additionally, legislation must be put into place that regulates commercial fishing practices so they do not adversely affect seabird populations like the South Polar Skua. To ensure the continued survival of this species into future generations, we must work together to protect its habitat and reduce other risks posed by human activities.

Conservation Efforts

The South Polar Skua is a vulnerable species, and its conservation status requires attention. Conservation efforts are underway to protect this majestic bird from the threats it faces in its range.

Climate Change
Human Activity
Nesting Sites Loss
Protected Areas
Community Education Programs
Research Studies & Monitoring Networks< br> Habitat Restoration Projects
BirdLife International
World Wildlife Fund-US
American Bird Conservancy
National Audubon Society

As an ornithologist, I am extremely concerned about these threats to their habitat. In order to address them, we must implement effective strategies such as establishing protected areas and conducting research on population dynamics. Additionally, community education programs can be implemented to ensure that local people understand the importance of conserving skuas and their habitats. Furthermore, habitat restoration projects are also important for promoting healthy nesting sites for South Polar Skuas.

In addition to these initiatives, several organizations have been working towards protecting the species through various campaigns like “Skua Watch” by BirdLife International or the “Save Our Seabirds” campaign by WWF US. These conservation organizations provide much needed support in terms of funds and resources for successful implementation of conservation strategies.

We should all take action now to prevent further decline in this species’ numbers and make sure they continue soaring over our planet’s oceans for many generations to come!


In conclusion, the south polar skua is a unique and fascinating bird species that has adapted to survive in an unforgiving environment. Its diet and feeding habits have allowed it to thrive in its habitats of Antarctic coasts and islands, as well as sub-Antarctic areas such as South Georgia, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. It’s impressive migration patterns allow it to cover immense distances each year in order to breed and nest. Unfortunately, due to threats from human activity such as fisheries bycatch and pollution the population of south polar skuas are at risk of decline if serious conservation efforts aren’t undertaken soon. As an ornithologist I am passionate about protecting this incredible species for future generations so we can continue to marvel at their beauty for many years to come.