Five species of these predatory seabirds have been recorded in Australian waters. Of these, the South Polar Skua Catharacta maccormicki is a vagrant, whereas the three species of jaeger, the Long-tailed Jaeger Stercorarius longicaudus, Arctic Jaeger S. parasiticus and Pomarine Jaeger S. pomarinus, are non-breeding seasonal visitors, and the Brown Skua Catharacta antarcticus is a wider-ranging resident species. Skuas breed on islands to the south, while the jaegers breed in the northern hemisphere.
The skuas and jaegers are all strongly migratory and, as such, may appear close to the mainland from time to time. Essentially, however, they are found in pelagic areas. The skuas are relentless thieves of eggs and nestlings, taken from unattended nest, as well as taking adult birds. Skuas are also scavengers, feeding on fresh or rotting carcasses. The jaegers are the “pirates” of the sea, relentlessly hounding smaller birds, until they regurgitate the food that they are carrying, which is then caught in flight. Small birds and mammals are also taken.
The name “skua” is derived from the Icelandinc name for the birds. They called them ‘skufr’, which described their shrieking call. “Jaeger” is German in origin, and translates as “hunter”.
Scientific name: Stercorariidae (family)