The South Polar Skua (Gatharacta maccormicki): A study of past research and future opportunity.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
The South Polar Skua is a bird well known to those who have spent time in Antarctica. For many it is the only seabird they encounter during their time in the region. It has a reputation as a hostile species, and in many ways is poorly understood. The common perception that all South Polar Skuas rely on penguins for food is unfounded. Research into the phylogenetics of the skua family has shown classification within the group to be problematic. One of the members of the family, the South Polar Skua, has been the subject of research in the Antarctic since the early days of Antarctic exploration. The species is widely distributed around the Antarctic coastline. In the Ross Sea area, work over the last 40 years has provided a good understanding of distribution, with the total population in the region estimated to be about 15,000 individuals. Research into the feeding ecology of the South Polar Skuas shows that their foraging method depends on the particular environment they inhabit as well as the presence of competing species. Siblicide is relatively common in South Polar Skuas, but questions remain as to why the behaviour occurs in some broods and not others. Significant opportunities exist in research relating to South Polar Skuas, with a need for long-term studies to assist in answering some questions.