Skuas near Auckland

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Ian McLean
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat May 11, 2013 2:29 pm

Skuas near Auckland

Postby Ian McLean » Fri Apr 16, 2021 5:35 pm

Kia ora

What looks to be a pale morph Arctic Skua was taken into care at the New Zealand Bird Rescue Charitable Trust in Green Bay here in Auckland on Wednesday 14 April. The bird was found at Cockle Bay at Howick in east Auckland. I have only seen pictures of the dorsal view of the bird, but I have been advised that it has white wing flashes near the tips of its wings. Attached are the two pictures of the bird that I have & as I am not an expert on skua I would appreciate any comments on the identification of this Skua.

I have also attached a photo of a small Skua recently seen at Shelly Beach in the Kaipara Harbour that has very different & rather striking plumage. The photo was taken by Axel Mertens on Sunday the 21st of March. Colin Miskelly has advised me that he "suspects this is an Arctic skua in worn plumage. Characters fitting Arctic (cf. long-tailed) include the heavy bill (not obviously bi-coloured) with pronounced gonydeal angle, the flat (cf. rounded) crown, the absence of prominent pale edges to feathers on the mantle and scapulars (though this is affected by wear), and the overall brownish tone of the bird (long-tailed skuas are greyish-looking). It is a great-looking bird, whatever it is !"

Amazingly, as mentioned on NZ Birds Online there are 36 potential plumage variations for Arctic Skuas depending on the phase & age of the bird ! I am used to seeing these small skua in flight when it can be easier to identify them. During a recent Birds New Zealand beach patrol of Muriwai Beach we found the scavenged remains of an Artic Skua in December of 2020. They are certainly are unusual birds to see close at hand & are of course migrants a long way from their breeding grounds !

Cheers
Ian McLean
Skua #1 by Axel Mertens.jpg
The Skua at Shelley Beach in the Kaipara.
Skua #1 by Axel Mertens.jpg (341.11 KiB) Viewed 802 times
Arctic Skua #2.jpg
The dorsal view of the Artic Skua in care.
Arctic Skua #2.jpg (50.97 KiB) Viewed 802 times
Arctic Skua #1.jpg
The head shot of the Arctic Skua ? in care.
Arctic Skua #1.jpg (45.65 KiB) Viewed 802 times
Last edited by Ian McLean on Sat Apr 17, 2021 7:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Ian McLean
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat May 11, 2013 2:29 pm

Skuas near Auckland

Postby Ian McLean » Fri Apr 16, 2021 5:38 pm

Hi there

Attached is another picture of the Skua at Shelley Beach in the Kaipara Harbour.

Cheers
Ian
Skua #2 by Axel Mertens.jpg
Another photo of the Skua from Shelley Beach in the Kaipara Harbour.
Skua #2 by Axel Mertens.jpg (317.34 KiB) Viewed 801 times
Paul Scofield
Posts: 138
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:39 am

Re: Skuas near Auckland

Postby Paul Scofield » Sat Apr 17, 2021 5:42 pm

Regarding the Shelly Beach Bird. There is a rule that I call the rule of thirds - with regards to the bill nicely illustrated here by Kaufman:

kaufmanjaegerbills.jpg
kaufmanjaegerbills.jpg (165.14 KiB) Viewed 650 times


This combined with the unique pattern of the greater coverts make it certain that this bird is a first basic Arctic (Parasitic) Jaeger.

Paul
Ian McLean
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat May 11, 2013 2:29 pm

Re: Skuas near Auckland

Postby Ian McLean » Sun Apr 18, 2021 8:48 pm

Hello Paul
Thanks for the excellent information on the bill shapes of jaegers, that's much appreciated. It will be a great reference for any future sightings.
Cheers
Ian McLean
Ian McLean
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat May 11, 2013 2:29 pm

Re: Skuas near Auckland

Postby Ian McLean » Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:39 pm

The Arctic Skua is still in care at NZ Bird Rescue & whilst the bird was bathed today, local Birds New Zealand member, Simon Runting was kindly given the opportunity to photograph the bird. As Arctic Skua appear to be seldom photographed at close quarters, I have attached a selection of Simon's photos for reference.

Cheers
Ian McLean
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #3.jpg
Ventral view & band
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #3.jpg (172.91 KiB) Viewed 415 times
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #2.jpg
Tail feathers
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #2.jpg (175.49 KiB) Viewed 415 times
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #1.jpg
Underwing view
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #1.jpg (176.66 KiB) Viewed 415 times
Ian McLean
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat May 11, 2013 2:29 pm

Re: Skuas near Auckland

Postby Ian McLean » Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:46 pm

Some additional photos of the Arctic Skua during & after having a bath !
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #6.jpg
The Skua enjoyed its bath & is having a good shake !
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #6.jpg (50.96 KiB) Viewed 415 times
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #5.jpg
Side view of the bill
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #5.jpg (136.29 KiB) Viewed 415 times
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #4.jpg
Dorsal view of the bill
Bird Rescue Arctic Skua #4.jpg (120.66 KiB) Viewed 415 times
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philbattley
Posts: 608
Joined: Wed May 20, 2009 2:21 pm

Re: Skuas near Auckland

Postby philbattley » Thu Apr 29, 2021 7:15 pm

What's just as impressive is the knowledge that someone was able to band it! Excellent.
Ian McLean
Posts: 126
Joined: Sat May 11, 2013 2:29 pm

Re: Skuas near Auckland

Postby Ian McLean » Fri Apr 30, 2021 10:04 am

Phil, I am not sure who actually banded this Skua, but Matt Rayner from the Auckland Museum has banded various seabirds for NZ Bird Rescue in the past.

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