Catharacta maccormicki (South polar skua) 

Suidpoolroofmeeu [Afrikaans]; Zuidpooljager [Dutch]; Labbe de McCormick [French]; Antarktische raubmöwe [German]; Moleiro-antárctico [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Laridae > Genus: Catharacta

Catharacta maccormicki (South polar skua)  Catharacta maccormicki (South polar skua) 
South polar skua, offshore of California, USA. [photo Jeff Poklen ©] South polar skua, offshore of California, USA. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds on ice-free areas of Antarctica and adjacent islands, often in colonies along with other seabirds, in fact it is the only vertebrate known to have reached the South Pole. After breeding it disperses into the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is a rare vagrant to southern Africa, recorded several times off the south-western coast and also sighted once near the coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

Movements and migrations

Little known, although it is thought to leave its breeding grounds in March, eventually returning in the period from September-November. Most southern African sightings are in Autumn, suggesting it sometimes passes through the region on the way to somewhere further north. The dark morph is most regularly recorded, which originates from Antarctic Peninsula.


Its diet has not been well-studied at its non-breeding grounds, but it does commonly scavenge discards and offal off fishing vessels, as well as stealing the food of other birds (even if larger than itself, such as the Wandering albatross).


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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