What’s in a name

The thing about Skuas is they can be difficult to identify. I’m not talking about the Pomarine with full spoons or the Long Tailed with a pheasant like quiver sticking out of its rear end, but the juveniles. The young autumn Skuas that fly past you as you stare out to sea … it’s those that aren’t easy.

We were sat on the shingle ridge at Cley next the Sea the other week when I spotted a juvenile Skua coming up the beach along the surf-line. Often termed the pirates of the sea they are dark moody birds. Birds you don’t want to upset; birds that you wouldn’t want to argue with … especially if you’re a tern with a sand eel.

The Skua had seen an easy meal in the distance up the beach and was all set for a mugging. No doubt a chase would ensue and the tern’s last snack would need to be regurgitated to appease its nemesis.

My first impression as it passed was that of an Arctic Skua and I called it as such. But later from the photographs it looked big. It wasn’t big enough for a Bonxie but it was chunky. Barrel shaped with a double white crescent at the base of the primaries. Has to be a juvenile Pomarine right? But look at the bill and the belly is bulging but the chest isn’t.

What I’m saying is some young Skuas are not easy to identify; even from photographs or the 10 seconds or less one may be in view as it sails passed close-by let alone one that is distant.

We should try … but it is not obligatory for absolutely everything to have a name … especially if it’s hugging the horizon.

The skua is a juvenile Artctic Skua.

Skua 2





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Oct 2013


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