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Colourful skuas

20 June 2011

It is that time of year when the Great Skuas or bonxies are defending their nest sites and chicks. Wander too near and you will soon know about it (Photo 1)! The adult birds are fiercely protective and swoop low at head height sometimes giving a warning slap with their large webbed feet (Photo 2).   

Skua protecting the nestPhoto 1: Skua and nest

Skua Attack!Photo 2: Skua swooping at head height!


On Hirta, some of the bonxies have colour rings on their legs.  Visitors often ask ‘why?’  A combination of four colours provides a unique identity which means researchers do not need to recapture the bird to work out who it is.  I try to take photos of all the colour ringed birds I see so I can study them later and make sure my identification of the colours is correct (Photo 3a-c). 

Colour rings - Red over white/White over white

Photo 3a: Skua Red over white/White over white (Photo: Stuart Murray)

Colour rings - White over red/Yellow over white

Photo 3b: Skua, White over red/Yellow over white

Colour rings - White over white/Black over black

Photo 3c: Skua, White over white/Black over black

I will report all my sightings at the end of the season and the information will provide researchers with data on the movements, survival and behaviour of these birds.


Gina, Seabird and Marine Ranger



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