Great Skua Great Skua

Great Skua

This great pirate of the skies is infamous in Orkney for terrorising anyone who goes near its nest during the breeding season. Always known in Orkney as the bonxie, its dive-bombing tactics around your head can be scary, although it rarely draws blood! The bonxie will harass birds to steal food and kill smaller birds. This is a problem for other species when fish stocks are scarce. Its aggressive behaviour has earned it the nickname of the pirate of the skies. It breeds on moorland, so stick to the cliffs and you are less likely to disturb them into a defensive frenzy.

A spectacular bird in flight with its dark wings with white flashes, its wingspan is 125-140cm. There are 1,700 pairs in Orkney and the second largest colony in Britain is in Hoy. However, the population has declined by 23% over the past ten years. Winter is a bonxie-free time in Orkney as it spends the season off the coasts of Spain and Africa, returning to Orkney from early April.

Inside Birds

A Fulmar chick after hatching

Fulmars

The fulmar is known as a mallimack or malli in Orkney dialect. Its common names are the Northern fulmar, fulmar petrel or Arctic fulmar and its proper name is Fulmarus glacialis. Orkney is a paradise ...

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Great Skua

Guillemots

The guillemot (Uria aalge), known as the aak in Orkney, has a dark brown head, neck and upperparts. It has a distinctive white line across closed wings. The bill is black and tapering and legs are dar...

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Razorbills on an Orkney cliff

Razorbills

There are about 10,000 razorbill (Alca torda) in Orkney – a member of the auk family locally called the coulter-neb or sometimes the sea crow (sea craa). They are noisy, quarrelsome birds that nest ...

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An Orkney puffin, with its distinctive beak

Puffins

Everybody’s darling, the puffin, or the tammie norrie as it is affectionately known in Orkney, brings a smile to the face of anyone lucky enough to see it. This small auk is worth seeking out in som...

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A gannet in flight in Orkney

Gannets

This large, bright, attractive bird with black wingtips is known as the solan goose in Orkney. There are 5,000 pairs in Orkney with the largest colony on remote Sule Stack 40 miles west of mainland Or...

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Great Skua

Wading Birds

The Great Skua in flight over OrkneyA pair of bonxies in OrkneyA great skua taking to the skiesThe bonxie flying above the seaThe great skua is also known as 'the pirate of the sky'!Lapwin...

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Great Skua

Birds of Prey

Click to Enlarge The Great Skua in flight over OrkneyClick to Enlarge A pair of bonxies in OrkneyClick to Enlarge A great skua taking to the skiesClick to Enlarge The bonxie flying above the seaClick ...

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Great Skua

Migrating Ducks

The Great Skua in flight over OrkneyA pair of bonxies in OrkneyA great skua taking to the skiesThe bonxie flying above the seaThe great skua is also known as 'the pirate of the sky'!Sheldu...

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