A Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus) in flight over the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska. Click the image to view a larger version of the photo.
One afternoon we hiked out around the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge just because. We must’ve wandered a little close to a Jaeger nest, as this bird suddenly appeared from nowhere and made its displeasure known.
The Parasitic Jaeger is also called the Arctic Skua or the Parasitic Skua. While not a “parasite“, the bird is well known for it’s piracy of other birds’ food. Stealing food is often called “kleptoparasitism” by folks who like to use large prodigious words to describe simple, everyday stuff; scientists, for example.
Though solitary, they’ll often ‘gang up‘ on other birds to steal food. One of the folks on our trip, Steve Weaver, was witness to such an act, when he saw and photographed 4 Jaegers harassing a Red-throated loon, finally driving it from its nest and eating the eggs the loon had been defending. Amazing stuff.
The Jaeger isn’t simply a thief though – the bird also hunts for prey, such as rodents, small birds and insects – Jaeger is the German word for ‘hunter‘.
Parasitic Jaegers look kinda like a gull, but the wings and flight are more falconesque. Pelagic birds, they spend the bulk of their time at sea, coming ashore to breed. The young will often spend the first couple of years of their lives over the seas, not returning to land until they reach breeding age.
Some of you might recall the Long-tailed Jaeger photo I posted previously from a trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) a couple of years ago. The Parasitic Jaegers are closely related, a little larger, but not so large as the Pomarine Jaeger.