Long-tailed skua (Stercorarius longicaudus)

The long-tailed skua is the smallest and most slender of the skuas. The long-tailed skua has a circumpolar distribution in arctic regions and is also found in northern Scandinavia. In Svalbard, the long-tailed skua is encountered annually in small numbers on the tundra along the coast.

Long-tailed skuaLong-tailed skua Photo: Norwegian Polar Institute

The long-tailed skua is the smallest and most slender of the arctic skuas. It has a graceful flight, similar to a tern. The long-tailed skua is unmistakable in breeding plumage with its extremely long tail being a key identification cue. The plumage of this species is less variable than that of the arctic skua; it resembles the light phase arctic skua, though it lacks the breast band and has a blacker cap. 

Distribution

The long-tailed skua has a circumpolar distribution in arctic regions and is also found in northern Scandinavia. It is a migratory bird that passes the coast of Norway and the shores of Western Europe during its migration to wintering areas in the southern parts of the Atlantic Ocean.

Management status and monitoring

In Svalbard, the long-tailed skua is encountered annually in small numbers on the tundra along the coast. Breeding has only been observed a few times. It is also seen annually in the waters around Svalbard, probably in connection with its migration from eastern Greenland and the Russian Arctic.

The virtual absence of small rodents is the likely reason for the long-tailed skua’s rarity in Svalbard. In East Greenland, which has a similar climate to Svalbard but where lemmings are found, the species is a common nesting bird.

MOSJ indicators (Environmental Monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen):

Awaiting results from MOSJ…