Living Bird Magazine
Long-tailed JaegerStercorarius longicaudus
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Stercorariidae
The slender, almost ternlike Long-tailed Jaeger is daintier than other jaegers, but no less ferocious in its approach to getting food. These birds catch lemmings and raid bird nests during summer on the Arctic tundra. The rest of the year they pick fish from the sea surface or chase seabirds to steal their catch. They spend up to 75% of the year at sea, often on the open ocean far from land, and ranging well into the Southern Hemisphere. Immature jaegers can be extremely difficult to identify to species.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Long-tailed Jaegers can be difficult to find. They breed in the high Arctic and spend the nonbreeding season farther out to sea than the other two jaeger species. The best bet for finding them is to sign up for a pelagic birding trip or whale-watching trip, particularly during the birds’ fall migration. Watch for a small, buoyant bird with slow, light wingbeats, often flying fairly high. Many Long-tailed Jaegers outside the breeding season will lack the very long central tail feathers of breeding adults.
- long-tailed skua
- Págalo Rabero (Spanish)
- Labbe à longue queue (French)
- Cool Facts
- For several kinds of Arctic predators, including Snowy Owls and Arctic foxes, lemming populations can make the difference between survival and starvation. But Long-tailed Jaegers are long-lived and eat lemmings only in the summertime; they forage at sea in the winter. This means they can avoid lemming shortages simply by choosing not to breed, a strategy that has been likened to “skimming the cream” off the lemming’s population cycles.
- Long-tailed Jaegers lay only 2 eggs per clutch, and they use their feet to keep them warm. Each foot holds an egg and presses it against an area of bare skin under the wing known as a brood patch, using their body heat to warm the eggs. Feathers start to grow back over the brood patches a week or so before hatching begins.