You are here: St Kilda Today > Ranger's Diary > Arctic skua breeding success

Arctic skua breeding success

12 September 2011

Arctic skuas have been added to the ‘at-risk’ list produced by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel because there are less than 1500 breeding pairs in the UK.  Between 1986 - 2007, the number of breeding pairs declined by 35% and it is hoped that more research and monitoring programmes will help determine the exact status of this species

Arctic skuas first bred on St Kilda in 2000. Since then, the ranger team has monitored the birds fate and fortune. In May this year, the Arctics returned to the island.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I found a dead dark phase bird – very sad news considering so few pairs breed on the island. 

Dark phase Arctic skua - chocolate brown medium-size seabirdLight phase Arctic Skua - pale belly and throattop: dark phase Arctic skua
bottom: more unusual light phase Arctic skua

The story ends well. Phew, I hear you sigh....  Throughout the season I monitored their breeding attempts and was duly told off every time I approached.  Arctic skuas seem to pivot on a pin head and while it is incredible to watch their aerial manoeuvres it is not so brilliant if you are at the receiving end of their dives!   

Arctic skua in flightArctic skua tail feathers - just too fast for me to take a photo!top: beautiful silhouette
bottom: too fast for me to take a photograph, nice tail feathers though!


Can’t grumble too much, their behaviour is a warning that they are protecting a nest site and they are only being good parents.  Both pairs successfully fledged one chick each – fantastic news! 

Arctic skua chick

Gina, Seabird and Marine Ranger

<< Previous
Summer is at an end
Next >>
Water and waves