Family Skuas (Stercorariidae)

Least Concern

South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki)


French: Labbe de McCormick German: Antarktikskua Spanish: Págalo polar

Stercorarius maccormicki

H. Saunders

, 1893,

Victoria Land, Antarctica


In past, sometimes considered conspecific with all three congeners. Occasional hybridization with C. antarctica lonnbergi reported. Monotypic.


Coastal Antarctica (including Antarctic Peninsula), especially in Ross Sea area. Winters N to Alaska, Greenland and Indian Ocean; precise range in N Atlantic uncertain, due to similarity in field of co-occurring C. skua.

Descriptive notes

50–55 cm; 900–1600 g; wingspan 130–140 cm. Two colour morphs: pale birds show strong contrast between pale golden brown to smoke grey body plumage and dark... read more


Mainly vocal on the breeding grounds. Long-call is a fast series of 10–15 short gruff barks. Calls... read more


Marine, apparently being pelagic in winter and feeding predominantly at sea while breeding. Breeds... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly feeds on fish, especially Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarcticum), caught at sea some distance from the breeding... read more


Starts Nov. Loosely colonial, highly territorial. Nest scrape usually unlined. Usually 2 eggs but only 1 laid by some inexperienced birds;... read more


Transequatorial migrant, departing from breeding grounds in Mar and returning Oct–Nov. Many... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population 5000–8000 pairs; 2000–6000 pairs in Ross Sea area, c. 800 pairs in Wilkes Land, 650 pairs on Antarctic... read more

Recommended citation

Furness, R.W. & Boesman, P. (2017). South Polar Skua (Catharacta maccormicki). 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 28 May 2017).