Great Skua

Stercorarius skua

What do they look like?

The Great Skua, or Bonxie, is the largest species of skua and is mostly a dark chocolate brown colour with lighter brown flecks. Prominent white patches are visible on their wings when in flight. It feeds by chasing seabirds like gulls and gannets in order to steal their fish (which is why they are sometimes referred to as ‘pirates’) or hunting smaller birds like puffins to eat. They are notoriously aggressive around their breeding grounds and are not afraid of humans, frequently dive-bombing people that venture too close.

When can I see them in Scotland?

April – September

Where can I see them in Scotland?

During the summer months, Great Skuas can be spotted around coastal moorlands on the north and west coasts of Scotland, as well as on St Kilda, Shetland and Orkney. They can also be spotted during spring and autumn from coastal locations, especially around other seabird colonies where they can readily access food.

Conservation Status:

In the UK, bird species with breeding, passage or wintering populations are assessed by experts and assigned to the Red, Amber or Green lists of conservation concern. Great skua are currently an ‘Amber’ listed species.

26-32 days
40-51 days
15 years
Average lifespan

A great skua standing on mossy ground
©Hannah Greetham