Conservation status: Amber
This bird is a bit of a Scottish speciality in the UK. Normally breeding on islands and coastal moorlands on the Scottish North and West coasts and sometimes found in Northern Ireland. They migrate here to breed from the North Atlantic (Mainly North Africa and Spain, but can also be found in Russia and the North Americas when wintering). They can normally be seen in the UK between April and November.
Large predominantly brown birds approximately the size of a herring gull and easily identified in flight when they could be mistaken for a buzzard whilst soaring but distinguished by the white bars on their wings. Look-up Great Skua anywhere and the phrase “Pirate of the Sea” often pops-up. An apt description for the way they harass other seabirds to drop their catch and steal their meal. Bonxies are also apex predators and will often kill smaller birds including puffins.
Also locally known as Bonxie, which translates from the Norse word “Dumpy”, which may refer to its stocky size or that the food dropped from harassed birds and eaten by the bonxie, was originally mistaken to be excrement (the Latin genus name Stercorarius also translates as “of dung”). Ground-nesting birds, sometimes in large colonies, they can be a frightening encounter for unwary humans as they will viciously defend nests by divebombing (although they are unlikely to actually do any real harm).
The collective noun for a group of skuas is “shishkebab”. True……..think about it!