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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Long-tailed Skua

Stercorarius longicaudus

  • Name also: Long-tailed Jaeger
  • Family: Skuas – Stercorariidae
  • Appearance: Body similar in size to Black-headed Gull, though mature birds have very elongated central tail feathers. Juveniles have wedge-shaped tails. Beak relatively thick. Pale patch on wings only indistinct.
  • Size: Length 35–41 cm, wingspan 88–105 cm, weight 230–350 g.
  • Nest: In a depression on the ground in a dry part of a bog, by dwarf birch trees in marshlands, or on an open arctic fell.
  • Breeding: 1–3 eggs laid late May– early June, incubated by both parents for 23 days. Fledglings learn to fly within 21 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds in northernmost Finnish Lapland. Finnish population estimated at between 100 and 2,000 pairs, varies greatly, due to the availability of lemmings as prey.
  • Migration: Probably by day. Timing of autumn migration unclear, but in poor years for lemmings may leave breeding areas as early as June or July. Sightings also possible as late as September–October. Returns in May after wintering in the mid-Atlantic and near the Brazilian coast.
  • Diet: Specialist predator mainly feeding on lemmings, but in years when lemmings are scarce will also feed on young birds, eggs and food scavenged on waste tips or in fishing harbours. May also feed on carrion, berries and insects. In winter practices a form of avian piracy, harassing terns and gulls, forcing them to drop their prey.
  • Calls: Series of shrill mewing similar to calls of Common Gull.
  • Endangerment: Near threatened, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Long-tailed Skuas breed on arctic fells in Finland’s far north. They will fearlessly launch aggressive aerial attacks on anyone approaching their nests. They are smaller than the Arctic Skua, and similar in colouring to Arctic Skuas of the darker colour phase, though their caps are darker and more clearly defined against their yellowish cheeks. They have white chests with no dark band. Their middle tail feathers are greatly elongated into a narrow needle-shaped tip. Juveniles’ tail extensions are only minimal. Juveniles are darker than young Arctic Skuas, and have more patterning on their upper parts. Long-tailed Skuas have dark grey legs, their beaks are greenish brown at the base with black colouring nearer the tip, and they have dark brown irises.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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