South polar skua

The south polar skua stands on a rocky shore.
South polar skua (Photo: Frederique Olivier )

Scientific name

Catharacta maccormicki

Physical description

The south polar skua is a large bird that grows to 53 cm in length.

Distribution & abundance

The south polar skua breeds on the Antarctic Continent and is a winter visitor to Australia. It has been recorded as far north as Greenland and the Aleutian Islands.

Conservation status: least concern

Breeding

South polar skuas arrive at their breeding colonies in late October to mid-December. Their nests are a shallow depression on the ground and are generally found in sheltered locations on rocky outcrops, moss covered cliffsides or valley floors.

The eggs hatch in late December to late January after an incubation period of 24-34 days.

Diet and feeding

During the summer months, south polar skuas prey on eggs and young of Adélie penguins near the coast, while other skuas feed solely on fish and krill. South polar skuas are often seen following ships at sea.

Many skuas nest in close association with their prey. Southern giant-petrel and other skuas are infrequent predators on unattended nests and wandering chicks. Some eggs and chicks are lost each season to exposure.

This page was last modified on 16 February 2012.