Great Skua
(Stercorarius skua)


Picture of bird
© Noel Reynolds - License
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

Great Skuas breed in colonies in the northeast Atlantic from western Scotland to Svalbard, Norway. During migration, these birds travel mostly south to the coasts of Europe and Africa. They are also known to winter in the North Atlantic, mostly on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Pelagic surveys in Atlantic Canada regularly detect a small number of Great Skuas each year (ECCC 2017f), but the number of sightings are insufficient to determine any change in the population status relative to about 1970. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow R2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Unrankable2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientData Deficient

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
CanadaNot yet available

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Seasonal visitor

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaTo be determined

Conservation and management

Great Skua eggs show some of the highest concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) of any North Atlantic seabird species. However, toxic effects are unknown and concentrations decreased significantly between eggs sampled in 1980 and 2008 (Leat et al. 2011, Hammer et al. 2016). The change in POPs likely reflects a shift in diet, as Great Skuas are known to feed on discards from fisheries and the availability of this resource declined considerably in the northeast Atlantic over the same time period (Bearhop et al. 2001, Leat et al. 2011). Decreases in sandeel stocks in the North Sea has led to reduced prey availability for the Great Skua population, but this species appears to have adapted by switching among prey types (Church et al. 2018).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves , sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NL -- Other
Scotian ShelfScotian Shelf, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NS -- Other