Antarctic or South Polar Skua
- Catharacta maccormicki
These skuas are flying away with the remains of what used to be a penguin chick. In the breeding season skuas get most of their food from penguin colonies. Early on they are looking for unguarded eggs, and then later for unguarded chicks. When the penguin chicks are small, one parent always stays with them on the nest to keep them warm while the other goes out to get food, changing over regularly. Eventually the chicks get big enough to regulate their own temperature and are too big for the parent to sit on and keep warm anyway. At this time they form a crèche whereby they help to protect each other against against predators such as skuas.
A healthy chick in a creche has little to fear, but
if a chick is weakened or possibly abandoned it has no
way of feeding itself until it fledges which it won't do
unless it is fed, it may become prey for skuas. This may
happen because one of the parents is itself killed by a
Photo; © Paul Ward - Pictures taken on Signy Island, South Orkneys, Antarctica.