Family Skuas (Stercorariidae)

Least Concern

Great Skua (Catharacta skua)


French: Grand Labbe German: Skua Spanish: Págalo grande

Catharacta Skua


, 1764,

Faeroe Island


In past, sometimes considered conspecific with all three congeners. Often lumped with C. antarctica, but mitochondrial DNA, plumage and biometrics all suggest they are separate species. Monotypic.


Iceland, Faeroes, N Scotland, Jan Mayen, Svalbard, Bear I, Norway and NW Russia (Kola Peninsula, Novaya Zemlya and neighbouring Vaygach I). Winters predominantly off Iberia, juveniles moving as far S as Cape Verde Is and Brazil; small numbers winter on Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Descriptive notes

53–58 cm; 1100–1700 g; wingspan 132–140 cm. Generally brown plumage but with much white, yellow, ginger and black flecking, individually very variable;... read more


Mainly vocal on the breeding grounds. Long-call is a series of 5–7 short bleating barks, e.g. “piEh... read more


Marine. Avoids land during migration and winter, so can often be found in unexpectedly large... read more

Food and feeding

A highly opportunistic feeder, but also frequently showing individual specializations in diet and feeding, with some colony-specific... read more


Starts May. Loosely colonial, highly territorial. Nest scrape usually lined with dead grass. Usually 2 eggs, but only 1 laid by some... read more


Migrates, wintering mainly off Iberia; younger birds travel further, some reaching Cape Verde Is... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total breeding population is only 13,600 pairs: 7900 pairs in Scotland; 5400 pairs in Iceland; 250 pairs in Faeroes; 60 pairs on... read more

Recommended citation

Furness, R.W. & Boesman, P. (2017). Great Skua (Catharacta skua). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 April 2017).