This is a large skua, measuring 50-58 cm (20-23 in) long with a 125-140 cm (49-55 in) wingspan. The adult is streaked greyish brown, with a black cap, while the juvenile is a warmer brown and unstreaked below. Its tail is short and blunt. The flight is direct and powerful.

Habitat and Distribution

The Great Skua breeds in Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands and the Scottish islands, with a few on mainland Scotland and in the northwest of Ireland. It breeds on coastal moorland and rocky islands. It is a migrant, wintering at sea in the Atlantic Ocean and regularly reaching North American waters. Vagrant to Mediterranean countries (e.g. Turkey).


This bird eats mainly fish, eggs, seabirds, carrion, offal, rodents, rabbits and occasionally berries. It obtains fish by robbing gulls, terns and even Northern Gannets of their catches. It will also directly attack and kill other seabirds.


They lay two spotted olive-brown eggs in grass-lined nests. Like other skuas, it will fly at the head of a human or other intruder approaching its nest.

Calls and Songs

Their call is a harsh hah-hah-hah-hah; some quacking and croaking noises have been heard.