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Long-tailed Jaeger

Stercorarius longicaudus

Length: 21 inches Wingspan: 36 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: 2 very long, pointed central tail feathers extend well past other tail feathers, black cap, white chest.

Long-tailed Jaeger - Stercorarius longicaudusLong-tailed Jaegers are birds of the Arctic tundra and open ocean, seen only rarely inland and very rarely in South Dakota. Adult birds are readily identifiable by the two very long, pointed central tail feathers that extend well past the rest of the tail.  Like many species in Arctic, they are very dependent upon vole and lemming populations, with nesting success usually directly related to yearly populations of these small mammals.

Habitat: Spends summer breeding season on Arctic tundra.  Spends winters over open ocean, usually staying off-shore, and very rarely found inland. 

Diet: Feeds very heavily on lemmings and voles on its breeding grounds.  Also eats fish, squid, insects, birds and eggs, berries, carrion, and refuse.

Behavior: Hunts by hovering over the landscape, then swooping down and capturing prey when spotted.  Very graceful and agile fliers, they will also sometimes capture prey (insects) while in flight.  They will also take prey from the surface of the water while swimming.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: In flight phew-phew-phew.

Migration: Summers in the Arctic.  Winters over open oceans, primarily in the Southern Hemisphere and well out into the ocean, rarely near land.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Long-tailed Jaeger sightings

Similar Species: Parasitic Jaeger, Pomarine Jaeger

Status: Numbers overall seem stable, although local populations may fluctuate greatly, tied to availability of lemmings and voles during the breeding season.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Long-tailed Jaeger

2) Audubon Guide - Long-tailed Jaeger

3) BirdWeb - Long-tailed Jaeger

Photo Information: Taken in Norway, June 2004 by Helge Sørensen


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Long-tailed Jaeger - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Extremely rare visitor, with only a handful of records in the state.

Additional Long-tailed Jaeger Photos (Coming Soon!)