Great Skua

Stercorarius skua


The great skua is a large, sturdy, brown seabird the size of a Herring Gull with broad white 'flashes' on the outside edge of its wings. Great Skuas are pirates: chasing other seabirds, such as gannets and gulls, and stealing the fish they have caught. They also eat smaller birds, such as puffins, and are known to be very aggressive at their breeding grounds - dive-bombing anyone who gets close to their nest. Great Skuas winter off the Spanish and African atlantic coasts.

How to identify

The largest skua, dark brown streaked with gold, with a dark cap and a thick bill.

Where to find it

Nests on moorlands on Scottish islands and seen around the coasts during spring and autumn migration.


When to find it

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

How can people help

The survival of seabirds like the great skua is threatened by the pollution, overexploitation and degradation of our marine and coastal habitats. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas' where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Great Skua
Latin name
Stercorarius skua
Gulls and seabirds
Length: 53-66cm Wingspan: 1.3m Weight: 1.3-1.5kg Average Lifespan: 15 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.