Skua attacks Penguin - a Battle!


Near the end of the hike from Fortuna Bay to Stromness, we came upon a small pond where several dozen Gentoo Penguins were hanging out, trying to stay cool in the almost 70°F heat. Several of my fellow passengers were also just hanging out while I (of course!) looked for picture opportunities ... such as taking pictures of Gentoo Penguins ... little did I know that a Skua was about to attack a young adult Gentoo Penguin in a battle to the death.

WARNING: The pictures below are gruesome as they depict the reality of nature ... which can be cruel.

This may have been the actual Skua seen below ... looks pretty mild-mannered ... for now!

south georgia skua at nest

2:39PM - I was photographing these Gentoo Penguins when the Skua first showed up

The Penguins didn't like the Skua nearby and presented a common front plus made a ton of noise - so he flew away.
south georgia skua gentoo penguins

At 2:48PM, I took this wide-angle picture and then turned 180° around for some other penguins

The Skua will shortly attack a Penguin on the far side of the pond just past the right side of this picture.
south georgia skua attack gentoo penguins
A few minutes later, Paul (in green) whispered "Alek, turn around!" and motioned to what was happening on the far shoreline of the pond ... which quickly got my attention.

2:50PM - Jim Riesert takes this stunning picture during the initial Skua attack

south georgia skua gentoo penguins

south georgia skua gentoo penguins


Skua attacks young adult Gentoo Penguin - a gory battle

My pictures start at 2:52 and the penguin stops moving four minutes later. Once the Skua's start feeding on the carcass, I walk over to the far side and take pictures (starting at 3:04PM) from the other direction of them eating.
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skua attacks penguin battle
Skua's are aggressive scavenger birds that can weigh several pounds and have four foot wingspans - a decent size bird. They will steal penguin eggs and go after the chicks, often working as a team to distract the adult penguins while the other goes in for the kill. We described our experience to the Naturalists and they said it's unusual for them to go after a young adult penguin, but that perhaps we did not detect it was weak and the Skua did.

We asked how come the nearby adult penguins didn't jump in there and "save" the penguin. He replied that it probably wasn't their child, so not worth a battle to risk severe injury. I can assure you that all of us humans watching on the sidelines were hoping the adult penguins would gang up on that Skua and kick his a** ... but they didn't do much more than "voice their displeasure" as they stood inches away from the battle to the death.

So yes, pretty gruesome to watch ... but again, this is reality, and nature can be cruel ... as also seen when a Blue Jay raids a House Finch nest.

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