Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Great Skua (Stercorarius skua)

There are only a few breeding pairs of great skua (Stercorarius skua) found in Ireland. The first pair was recorded during the seabird census of Britain and Ireland conducted between 1998 and 2002 (Seabird populations of Britain and Ireland: Results of the seabird 2000 Census). Since this time a few pairs have bred regularly on remote islands off the coast of Co. Mayo. Seabird 2000 reported the worldwide distribution of Great Skua as follows (breeding pairs): Scotland 9600, Ireland 1, Faroes 270, Iceland 5400, Norway 440, Russia 10. When breeding, skuas are highly territorial and can be extremely aggressive, as seen in the 2nd picture. This bird swooped within inches of my head making it pretty difficult to photograph. At the time I didn't realise there were skuas on the particular island - had I known I would not have disturbed them. Skuas are opportunistic feeders often following trawlers and taking discarded fish. They may also kill small seabirds or steal food from gannets and other birds (kleptoparasitism).

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