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Long-tailed skua (Stercorarius longicaudus)

Two long tail feathers and the elegant flight make the slim Long-tailed skua actually unmistakable. On Spitsbergen it is less frequently seen than the more compact Arctic skua.

Long-tailed skua

Long-tailed skua, Blomstrand (Kongsfjord)

Description: Judged by its length of about 53 cm, the Long-tailed skua is larger than the Arctic skua, but in fact it is smaller, as this measurement includes the tail feathers which alone are 15 cm long. It weighs 220-350 g and has a smaller and more elegant appearance. With a dark cap, yellowish-white chest and neck but otherwise brown plumage, it resembles the Arctic skua. The long tail and the elegant flight resembling that of a swallow, are diagnostic for the Long-tailed skua.

Distribution / Migrations: The Long-tailed skua has a circumpolar distribution in the Arctic, including some scattered breeding pairs in northern Norway. As its main prey, rodents, are lacking in Svalbard, it is very rare in this area. On Svalbard probably 25 – 30 pairs breed. There are several breeding pairs on Blomstrandhalvøya on the northern side of Kongsfjord, possibly another one in Ekmanfjord on the northern Isfjord area. It is occasionally seen in the drift ice, possibly on the way from or to its breeding grounds in Greenland or the Russian Arctic. Long-tailed skuas spend the winter in the south Atlantic.

Biology: Rodents are the main prey of the Long-tailed skua. It is accordingly quite common in East Greenland, but rare in Spitsbergen, where it has to make do with insects, carrion and marine crustaceans.

Solitary pairs breed on flat, dry tundra. Both parents incubate the two eggs (rarely one) for 23 days. The chicks stay a few days only on the nest and then stay for another three weeks with their parents until they are able to fly.

Miscellaneous: Breeding Long-tailed skuas may be curious and come quite close to visitors. Of course you must still keep a good distance from the nest.

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last modification: 2017-11-15 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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