Skuas and Jaegers

South Polar Skua Stercorarius maccormicki
South Polar Skua is an extremely rare bird anywhere in the state of Florida, and on 19 June 2006 Roger Clark provided one of the first photo-documented records 10 miles offshore of Mayport in Duval County. This is the only county record.

Pomarine Jaeger Steracorarius pomarinus
Howell (1932, p. 253) cited W. T. Helmuth’s observation of eight to ten Pomarine and “about five Parasitic Jaegers” in Mayport on 9 April 1918, providing perhaps the earliest records of each species. Pomarine Jaegers are less abundant than Parasitic, and are less often or less likely to be seen from shore. The best time to try to scan for them is from mid-November through about mid-February, although there are scattered reports throughout the spring into May. Scope the ocean from Huguenot Memorial Park, Little Talbot Island State Park, Hanna Park, or 16th Avenue South in Jacksonville Beach.

Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus
The first report of Parasitic Jaeger comes from A.C. Bent, who noted one “off Jacksonville April 9 [1903]”, then Helmuth reported five at Mayport on 9 April 1918 (Howell, 1932, p. 253). Today, I’d say Parasitic Jaegers are roughly four to five times more abundant than Pomarines offshore Duval County, and is the more likely species to see during a seawatch. Look for them from early November through about May. If you can get even a mile off shore in a small skiff you are much more likely to encounter them. My favorite places to scan for jaegers is from Huguenot Memorial Park and Little Talbot Island State Park. Noel Wamer had great success observing jaegers each winter during morning seawatches from the end of 16th Avenue South in Jacksonville Beach.

Long-tailed Jaeger Stercorarius longicaudus
The earliest known report of Long-tailed Jaeger comes from Howell (1932, p. 254), who noted “numbers in February off the mouth of the St. Johns River” by Wayne in 1910. The next report I can find comes 90 years later from Noel Wamer, who observed one following Hurricane Gordon in 2000 at the 16th Avenue South location. In addition to the aforementioned South Polar Skua, Clark noted a single bird on his pelagic trip of 19 June 2006. Two years later on 23 August 2008, Clark observed another one flying up the Fort George Inlet following Tropical Storm Fay. Most recently, Patrick Leary recorded one just over the breakers at Little Talbot Island SP on 5 November 2016.

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