Subantarctic skua

Subantarctic skua with two fluffy brown chicks snuggled into a grass nest
Subantarctic skua with chicks (Photo: Doug McVeigh)

Scientific name: Catharacta skua

Physical description

Subantarctic skuas have grey-brown or dark-brown wings with conspicuous white patches, a wedge-shaped tail, and a black, short heavy bill.

Distribution and abundance

Subantarctic skuas have a far ranging distribution and can be found from the subantarctic to as far north as the subtropics, including Australian, New Zealand, South African and South American coasts. Small numbers of subantarctic skuas have been observed foraging at Antarctic islands, but they do not breed there.

Although most adult birds leave their colonies during winter, on some islands off the coast of New Zealand, a large proportion of the population will stay near the colonies all year round.

Conservation status: least concern

Breeding

Subantarctic skuas breed during summer months and will typically lay two eggs. They will often nest on elevated grasslands or in sheltered rocky areas adjacent to penguin colonies. They will defend their territories vigorously against all intruders including other skuas and petrel. Some birds choose not to nest in the colonies, but will establish solitary nesting sites.

The estimated lifespan of subantarctic skuas is approximately 11 years.

Diet and feeding

Subantarctic skuas scavenge and predate upon other seabirds and their young, eggs, fish, molluscs, crustaceans and small mammals. Their diet is very broad depending on season and their locality.

This page was last modified on 16 February 2012.