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Conservation status: Green

The great skua is an aggressive pirate of the seas, deliberately harrassing birds as large as gannets to steal a free meal. It also readily kills and eats smaller birds such as puffins. Great skuas show little fear of humans - anybody getting close to the nest will be repeatedly dive-bombed by the angry adult. These birds migrate to the northernmost isles of the UK from their wintering grounds off the coasts of Spain and Africa. At a distance they look stout and dark and show white wing flashes in flight.



Latin name

Catharacta skua


Skuas (Stercorariidae)

Where to see them

In breeding areas on coastal rocky islands and moorland; at other times seen around coasts, often in the neighbourhood of seabird colonies, scavenging from other birds, or picking food from the surface of the sea.

When to see them

Arrives at its breeding grounds in April and leaves in July. Look for it offshore in spring and especially in late summer and early autumn when it is migrating along western and eastern shores of the UK.

What they eat

Fish, carrion, other birds


EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
-9,634 pairs--




Dougie Preston, Xeno-canto

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