Subject: Re: Jaegers and Skuas
Date: Sep 14 08:48:59 1994
From: Gail Mackiernan - GAIL%UMDD.BITNET at

The long thread forwarded from <tweeters> by Dan Victor regarding the use
of "jaeger" vs. "skua" for the small skua-type species brings back memories
of some amusing experiences (well, amusing to me) that have befallen my
British spouse on pelagics in this country. He went out on a pelagic out
of New Jersey one spring, good time for South Polar Skua. Everyone had
been watching for hours with little bird activity. Barry spots a dark bird
a ways out, studies it carefully for a moment, then calls out, "Skua!"
Immediate pandemonium amongst all the birders, until a closer look reveals
it to be a Pomarine Jaeger, *which Barry knew all the time*, but which
didn't sit well with the others on board. He thought they were going to
keel-haul him (twice, since he was on the catamaran Miss Barnagat Light).
So he keeps his mouth shut the rest of the trip, repeating to himself,
"jaeger, NOT skua, jaeger, NOT skua..."

The next embarrassing incident occurred a few years later, in winter,
on a trip out of Ocean City, MD. He spots a large dark bird a ways out,
and yells, "Bonxie!" Everyone looked at him like he was, well, "bonxie"
himself and edged away, until someone else yells, "Great Skua!" and the
chase was on. This time, he travels home repeating, "Skua, NOT bonxie,
skua, NOT bonxie..."

The last time, we were out of Virginia Beach in February. Everyone's scanning
and I notice Barry is focussed on something quite a ways out. I look -- it
is a large dark bird, flying heavily towards us, disappearing occasionally
behind the waves. I look at Barry and I can see some sign of intense inner
conflict on his face. He is definitely struggling with something. Finally he
manages to blurt out "Skua!" about the time several others do, and a
real Great Skua flies in, does a 360 around the boat, and then sits down
for photos and admiration. Later I asked Barry why it took him so long to
announce the bird, and he said he couldn't think of what to call the bloody

The final blow came on our trip last winter to England, where he managed to
embarrass himself by calling out "Parasitic Jaeger" in front of all his
old mates and they chided him for forgetting how to speak English, for
god's sake! (It's Arctic Skua in Brit-speak).

I know one person who would *really* like a consensus reached on names!

Gail Mackiernan, Gail at UMDD.UMD.EDU


From: Paul DeBenedictis <BENEDICT%SNYSYRV1.BITNET at>

Actually, the work on Skua/Jaeger taxonomy came out of Michael Wink's group
in Germany. But the highlight is correct, Pomarine Jaeger is closer to the
large skuas than it is to the two smaller Jaegers. There's a complicated aside
to this that is being followed up, very interesting. But what I'd do is lump
the two genera. (Pomarine Jaeger has been known to be morphologically &
behaviorally intermediate for a long time; and species limits of the large
skuas aren't well supported by molecular evidence either.)

The English name controversy is whether the small species should be called
Jaegers (as in North America) or Skuas (as in Europe). The former was favored
by the International Ornithological Congress English names group, but I don't
know if they are still in business.

Paul DeBenedictis
SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse