Photo: Hanne & Jens Eriksen/Vireo

Long-tailed Jaeger

Stercorarius longicaudus

A swift-flying seabird, extremely graceful and agile in flight. When swimming, it floats buoyantly, and it takes flight from the water easily. Of the three jaeger species, the Long-tail is the smallest and the one that migrates farthest offshore; south of the Arctic, it seldom comes within sight of land.
Conservation status Local breeding populations fluctuate sharply with changes in food supply; overall numbers probably more or less stable. No evidence of widespread trends in population.
Family Skuas and Jaegers
Habitat Open sea; tundra (summer). Spends much of year far out at sea, generally out of sight of land. In breeding season on tundra, both near coast and well inland, but tends to prefer higher and drier areas rather than marshy coastal tundra. Young birds and non-breeders may remain at sea all year.
A swift-flying seabird, extremely graceful and agile in flight. When swimming, it floats buoyantly, and it takes flight from the water easily. Of the three jaeger species, the Long-tail is the smallest and the one that migrates farthest offshore; south of the Arctic, it seldom comes within sight of land.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

In summer on tundra, hunts by hovering and then swooping down on prey; sometimes picks up items while swimming, or catches insects in flight. May steal food from other birds.


Eggs

2, sometimes one, rarely 3. Brown to olive, blotched darker brown and gray. Incubation is by both sexes, 23-25 days. Young: Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Parents defend nest by diving at predators or humans, even landing on intruder's head and pecking. Young can fly at 22-27 days; remain with parents another 1-3 weeks.


Young

Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Parents defend nest by diving at predators or humans, even landing on intruder's head and pecking. Young can fly at 22-27 days; remain with parents another 1-3 weeks.

Diet

Includes fish, rodents, birds, berries. Summer diet is mostly small rodents, especially lemmings and voles when they are in high population cycle; also insects, small birds, fish, squid, carrion, and berries (especially crowberries). Diet during rest of year poorly known; includes fish, carrion, refuse.


Nesting

Probably does not breed until at least 3-4 years old. More likely to nest successfully in years when lemmings are abundant. Has spectacular courtship flight, with rapid swoops and zigzags, often three birds together, or one male chasing one female. In courtship on ground, male feeds female. Nest site is on ground on open tundra, often on slightly raised spot. Nest (built mostly by female?) is simple depression, usually with sparse lining of plant material.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Typically migrates farther offshore than other jaegers. In early fall, a very few (mostly first-autumn immatures) show up on lakes well inland. Fall migration earlier than in other jaegers, with many adults southbound by mid-August. Wintering areas not well known, but apparently mostly at sea south of the Equator.

Help this bird. Donate today
Migration

Typically migrates farther offshore than other jaegers. In early fall, a very few (mostly first-autumn immatures) show up on lakes well inland. Fall migration earlier than in other jaegers, with many adults southbound by mid-August. Wintering areas not well known, but apparently mostly at sea south of the Equator.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A harsh kreeah; other yelping and rattling notes on breeding grounds.