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Parasitic Jaeger

Stercorarius parasiticus

Length: 16 to 21 inches Wingspan: 36 inches Seasonality: Extremely rare visitor
ID Keys: Two short pointed extended central tail feathers, dark overall with lighter neck, white base on primaries

Parasitic Jaeger - Stercorarius parasiticusThe Parasitic Jaeger is the Jaeger most often seen from shore, as they tend to congregate over the continental shelf within a few miles from land.  They most often feed by chasing other birds, forcing them to drop their catch of a fish, and swooping down to snatch it themselves.  They are only occasionally found inland, most often around the Great Lakes and the Salton Sea.  Only one specimen has ever been identified in South Dakota (per SDOU's "Birds of South Dakota"). 

Habitat: Found on open tundra and coastal marshes in the Arctic during the summer breeding season.  During winter and in migration, they are usually found over open ocean relatively close to the shoreline. 

Diet: Primarily feeds on fish that it steals from other birds.  Will also feed on smaller birds, bird eggs, small rodents, large insects, and fruits and berries. They can also sometimes be found feeding on human refuse.

Behavior: As mentioned above, they most often feed by stealing food from other birds.  They will also hover and swoop down to catch prey, as well as forage by walking on the ground.  

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Generally silent except on breeding grounds, where it gives yelping and rising skoo-aa songs.

Migration: Summers in the Arctic.  Most winter in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the Southern Hemisphere, with lesser numbers wintering offshore in the Northern Hemisphere.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Parasitic Jaeger sightings

Similar Species: Pomarine Jaeger

Conservation Status: No discernible trends in global populations.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Parasitic Jaeger

2) WhatBird - Parasitic Jaeger

3) Audubon Guide - Parasitic Jaeger

Photo Information: Photo courtesy of George Jameson


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Parasitic Jaeger - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Extremely rare visitor

Additional Parasitic Jaeger Photos (coming soon!)