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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onWild­life → Long-tail­ed skua

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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