PARASITIC JAEGER – (Stercorarius parasiticus)
The Parasitic Jaeger or Arctic Skua is a pelagic seabird that measures around 45 cm (18 in.) long, and it comes in different plumages (morphs). One morph has dark grey-brown plumage overall. Another morph is grey for the upper parts with a black cap and white cheeks, a grey-white breast and white under parts. The bill, legs and webbed feet are dark grey. When in flight the longer central tail feathers are visible. Both sexes are similar.
The English name ‘Jaeger’ comes from German and means ‘hunter’. And hunt this bird does, actually stealing prey from other birds, hence the adjective ‘parasitic’ both in the English and Latin names. The Latin genus name ‘Stercorarius’ refers to ‘dung’, as this species goes after fish scraps (offal) from fishing vessels.
Parasitic jaegers hunt other birds until they disgorge their catches while at sea. When on land (for breeding), they will prey on rodents, as well as birds and insects.
The nest of the parasitic jaeger is a small depression on the ground in the tundra. When not breeding, these birds can spend their whole time at sea, usually above the continental shelf offshore.
The parasitic jaeger does not breed on PEI, and its occurrence on the island is listed as ‘accidental’ (summer), and ‘rare’ to ‘uncommon’ (fall), depending on the years. An immature parasitic jaeger was observed at North Rustico on July 1, 2009. Its breeding range covers the tundra and coastal areas of northern Canada and Alaska. For the winter parasitic jaegers can be observed offshore along the coasts of the southern USA, Mexico, South America, Africa, even Australia.