Arctic Skua. Photograph by Moss Taylor

Tracking Arctic Skuas

Arctic Skuas are the fastest declining seabird in the UK, with losses of up to 80% in the breeding population since 1986. This appeal allowed us to investigate factors on skua migration routes and in their wintering areas that could be contributing to these declines.

This appeal is now closed to donations, but you can still support our work:

Arctic Skuas have long held the fascination of birdwatchers, with their outstanding aerial skills which they use to chase and force other seabirds into abandoning their freshly caught fish. They also carry out impressive migrations heading south into the Atlantic for the winter, with bird recoveries being reported from as far away as Southern Africa and South America.

Rather worryingly, major crashes have occurred in the UK breeding population, with losses of over 81% reported over the last three decades. However, it is unclear whether these declines are driven solely by changes at the colonies or whether there are issues arising during the non-breeding season.

What we need to do

Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) tagging work carried out on Fair Isle in 2017 and 2018 indicated that feeding conditions were extremely poor with birds undertaking extended foraging trips – which had never been documented before. We need to extend this work programme to determine to what extent this is happening at other colonies.

Data from the four trackers deployed in 2019 needs to be downloaded and analysed and, added to the information already collected, this will give us a much better picture of where our Arctic Skuas spend the winter and the migration routes they take. During the winter of 2019/2020 we plan to produce a scientific paper to help our understanding about the reasons why Arctic Skuas are in such serious decline.

We also want to mobilise volunteers to help record the skuas' abundance, breeding success and diet which will help support Seabirds Count - the current national seabird census, and the annual Seabird Monitoring Programme.

Ultimately we will develop a Species Action Plan to bring together experts on Arctic Skuas from across their range to identify short-term solutions and long-term management strategies.

How you can make a difference

The Arctic Skua Tracking Appeal is now closed to donations, but you can still support our work:

More information about this project

Download our PDF with more information on the questions the project is trying to answer - 

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