I’ve seen Great Skuas attacking juvenile Kittiwakes on Westray. They pluck them out of the air and peck them to death. It’s quite a harrowing watch. This one escaped:
This one wasn’t quite as lucky:
Kittiwakes are marvellous gulls, slender and delicate. Here’s an adult:
Today I’m on the coast of Westray when this time I see a dark Arctic Skua attacking an adult Kittiwake:
It’s not trying to kill it, though. It’s trying to steal its fish.
It’s harassing it, chasing it, dive-bombing it. It’s doing everything in its power in an attempt to get the Kittiwake to regurgitate its meal and provide food for the Arctic Skua.
The Kittiwake isn’t having any of it and narrowly escapes.
As I stand half-way down the cliffs I see the Arctic Skua patrolling on its way back.
It’ll get a meal soon from some unsuspecting bird. What a strange way of life they’ve evolved to lead.
In 1992 there were 1,043 apparently occupied territories (AOT) of Arctic Skuas in Orkney. In 2000 there were 720 AOT. In 2010 there were just 380. I’m still looking for more recent data. I’m privileged to be able to spend time with them.