Subject: Re: Jaegers and Skuas Date: Sep 14 08:48:59 1994 From: Gail Mackiernan - GAIL%UMDD.BITNET at ARIZVM1.ccit.arizona.edu
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 thing!
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 Maryland
From: Paul DeBenedictis <BENEDICT%SNYSYRV1.BITNET at ARIZVM1.ccit.arizona.edu>
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