Great skua Stercorarius skua, flying in the vicinity of Dunnet Head RSPB reserve, Caithness, near Thurso, Scotland


Skuas are 'piratical' birds, gaining much of their food by stealing it from other seabirds. They make a very small family with just four northern hemisphere species and three southern hemisphere species.

All four are regularly seen in the UK, with two breeding. Skuas can be divided into two main types, the ‘great skua’ kind which are large, broad-winged and mottled brown and the rest, which are more slender, long-winged and have distinctive tail projections. These (including the Arctic skua) are unusual among birds as they appear in two or three plumage forms (‘dark’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘pale’).