This is a dark coloured medium sized seabird, with two distinctive long feathers at the middle of the tail. It is about the same size as a common gull, with white patches on its wing tips. Often seen flying low over the water before pursuing other seabirds such as terns, it twists, climbs and dives until they relinquish their food.
They nest and breed on the coasts in northern Scotland during summer. In late summer and autumn they are birds of passage down the west and the east coasts of Scotland and in spring are seen in passage again northwards.
Breeding birds can be found on Shetland and the Orkneys, also on coastal moorlands in the north and west.
Arctic skuas are dependant on stealing food from its target species, such as terns
. Its own breeding success is therefore dependent on the ability of its target species to find food, in particular sand eels. The failure of the sand eel fisheries in Northern waters due to overfishing has therefore had an impact on numbers.
The great skua is an aggressive pirate of the seas, deliberately harrassing birds as large as gannets to steal a free meal. It also readily kills and eats smaller birds such as puffins. Great skuas show little fear of humans - anybody getting close to ...
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