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. Frequent hybridization with Brown Skuas C. antarctica lonnbergi occurs where the breeding ranges of the two coincide, the mixed pairs usually if not always comprising a male South Polar paired with a female Brown Skua#R. 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

The breeding season diet is diverse but selective. Predation on penguin eggs and chicks of penguins predominates at particular colonies or... read more


Starts Nov. Loosely colonial, highly territorial. Nest scrape usually unlined. Clutch is usually two eggs but only one laid by some... read more


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

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The global population was estimated in the early 1980s to be of the order of 5000–8000 pairs; 2000–6000 pairs in the Ross... read more

Recommended citation

Furness, R.W., Boesman, P. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). 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 19 April 2019).