Arctic Skuas v Arctic Terns

I’ve seen Arctic Skuas get into quite a few scraps this summer. There was the time one chased a Raven. Then the argument with a Great Skua.

On Papa Westray they’re back to doing what they do best; kleptoparasitism. Let me introduce you.

This is a dark form of the Arctic Skua:

Arctic Skua on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They are nesting on Papa Westray and need a constant supply of fish for their youngsters.

Here’s the light form:

Arctic Skua on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They are powerful and elegant fliers, more like falcons in their movement than anything else.

Arctic Skua on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

And here’s an Arctic Tern. They spend our summer here and then spend the Southern Hemisphere’s summer there. It’s a life of constant light and endless summer days.

Arctic Tern on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

They’re incredibly light but fabulously tough birds. It’s great to see them coming back from the sea with these small orange fish.

Arctic Tern on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’m not the only one who has noticed their fishing success, though. Here’s an Arctic Skua attempting to rob an Arctic Tern of its fish.

Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s flyway robbery.

Arctic Tern on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The aggression isn’t all one way, though. The Terns attack the Skuas and mob them mercilessly.

Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

There’s an Arctic Tern on its tail and it’s as mad as hell.

Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Aerial acrobatics are called for:

Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

And so the chase continues, with the chaser becoming the chased and then the chaser.

Arctic Tern and Arctic Skua on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s repeated in an endless cycle all day throughout the season.

Meanwhile a juvenile Arctic Tern flies past us calling and lands next to us. It’s the raising of this tiny bird which is at stake.

Arctic Tern on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Let’s hope it makes it around the world and back again.

Arctic Tern on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

With parents as feisty as these I have high hopes for its survival.

Arctic Tern on Papay - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

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