|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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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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
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA harsh kreeah; other yelping and rattling notes on breeding grounds.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Long-tailed Jaeger
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Long-tailed Jaeger
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.