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the web of life in southern Africa

Stercorarius parasiticus (Parasitic jaeger, Arctic skua) 

Arktiese roofmeeu [Afrikaans]; Kleine jager [Dutch]; Labbe parasite [French]; Schmarotzerraubmöwe [German]; Moleiro-parasítico [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: Stercorarius

Stercorarius parasiticus (Parasitic jaeger, Arctic skua)   

Parasitic jaeger, offshore of California, USA. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]


Distribution and habitat

Breeds in coastal areas of the Arctic Circle, heading south in the non-breeding season to the shores of the Southern Hemisphere. Within southern Africa it is common to locally abundant off the southern and western coast, while more scarce off the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique. It mainly occurs in coastal waters, regularly visiting nearby wetlands and sheltered embayments, although scarce further out to sea.

Movements and migrations

Departs its breeding grounds in the period from August-September, coinciding with the departure of Common and Arctic terns from which it steals food. It arrives in southern Africa in late September and October, before mainly departing in April, although a small proportion of its population stay over winter.


It mainly eats fish, aquatic invertebrates and fishery waste, doing most of its foraging by stealing food from other birds, especially small gulls and terns. Up to a dozen or so jaegers may harass a single bird, largely ignoring readily available fish, although it occasionally seizes prey from the water surface.


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.