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Wintering skuas in India

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  • Wintering skuas in India

    I have just posted a picture of a skua in the ID Discussion Gallery ( This was taken off the Kerala coast in India in February 2008. Skuas aren't reported very often in India although a bewildering array of immature and non-breeding plumages are probably present throughout the winter.

    I have a gallery of skua photos from this trip online at with pictures of the bird in question at:

    On the boat journey from Kochi to Lakshadweep I saw nearly 100 skuas and all that I could identify (more than 50%) were Pomarine. I suspected that the others were mostly Pomarine as well. However the picture posted shows an extremely pale and small-looking immature. Long-tailed has not been recorded in the Indian subcontinent and, although at first glance this bird might suggest Long-tailed, I feel it is probably more likely an Arctic. I suspect that bleaching is the cause of the extreme whiteness.

    Would appreciate some input from anyone who knows wintering and immature skuas well (if there is such a thing!)

    -- Mike --

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    -- Mike --

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  • #2
    Hi Mike,

    Skuas like this are always tough to call but my first impression was of Arctic Skua.

    The depth of the chest and length of tail suggest Arctic to me, as does the relatively long, slender bill which appears to be slightly more grey than black.

    Perhaps the upperwing coverts should be somewhat greyer if it was to be a Long-tailed??? The white primary shafts on the upperwing seem restricted for Arctic however.

    My best guess would be Arctic.

    I could be horribly wrong, don't get much experience of birds in these plumages in Ireland!!!



    • #3
      tough one - plumage looks good for Long-tailed. Are there any structural clues here that would confirm it's a worn/bleached Arctic?


      • #4
        I think you're bang on with your original ID of Arctic Skua. Wouldn't a Long-tailed show barring on the undertail coverts at this age? Bill shape also suits Arctic better than Long-tailed.