Family Skuas (Stercorariidae)

Least Concern

Brown Skua (Catharacta antarctica)


French: Labbe antarctique German: Subantarktikskua Spanish: Págalo subantártico
Other common names: Southern Skua, Subantarctic Skua

Lestris antarcticus


, 1831,

Falkland Islands


In past, sometimes considered conspecific with all three congeners. Often treated as conspecific with C. skua, but mitochondrial DNA, plumage and biometrics all indicate specific status for both forms; moreover, differs more from C. skua than from other two congeners. Occasional hybridization with C. maccormicki and with C. chilensis is reported; hybrid pairs are frequent between the former and race lonnbergi where the two breeding ranges overlap in Antarctica#R. Race hamiltoni differs only slightly from nominate. Race lonnbergi has been considered a separate species (name sometimes spelt erroneously as loennbergi, but removal of Scandinavian diacritical mark does not justify addition of “e”). Proposed races clarkei (South Orkneys) and intercedens (Kerguelen I) both considered synonyms of lonnbergi#R. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. a. antarctica (Lesson, 1831) – Falkland Is and SE Argentina; winters off SE South America.
  • C. a. hamiltoni Hagen, 1952 – Tristan da Cunha and Gough I; winters near breeding areas.
  • C. a. lonnbergi Mathews, 1912 – Antarctic Peninsula, and subantarctic islands of Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans; some winter near breeding areas but many range widely in southern oceanic waters.
  • Descriptive notes

    52–64 cm; 1200–2100 g; wingspan 126–160 cm. Brown plumage, but highly variable from uniformly dark brown to light brown with pale flecking; relatively large... read more


    Mainly vocal on the breeding grounds. Long-call is a fast series of 8–15 short gruff barks. On... read more


    Marine, or on and around subantarctic islands populated by burrow-nesting seabirds or penguins.... read more

    Food and feeding

    Highly predatory, feeding mainly on burrow-nesting prions, gadfly petrels, storm-petrels, shearwaters and penguins, and scavenging on... read more


    Starts October–November. Loosely colonial, highly territorial. May breed in trios or larger groups, with several males but only one... read more


    Some birds at colonies in New Zealand, Tristan da Cunha and Gough are resident throughout year,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The global population is not known precisely but may be of the order of 13,000–14,000 pairs: 3000–5000 pairs of nominate... read more

    Recommended citation

    Furness, R.W., Boesman, P. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2018). Brown Skua (Catharacta antarctica). 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 17 December 2018).