Conservation status Local breeding numbers fluctuate strongly along with population cycles of lemmings and other rodents. Worldwide jaeger population difficult to monitor, but no evidence of major declines. Most of breeding range is remote from impacts of human activity.
Family Skuas and Jaegers
Habitat Open sea, coasts (offshore); tundra (summer). Spends most of year at sea, often over continental shelf, but usually stays farther from land than Parasitic Jaeger and may occur far out in mid-ocean. Concentrates over upwellings and boundaries of currents. In summer on tundra, generally low-lying areas near coast.
Powerful and fast-flying, a predator and pirate of the ocean and the far north. The largest of the three jaeger species. Not seen from shore as often as Parasitic Jaeger, but usually the one seen in greatest numbers on boat trips offshore. In northern Alaska, this is a major predator on the brown lemming: During summers when these rodents are in low numbers, many Pomarine Jaegers do not attempt to nest.

Feeding Behavior

Forages at sea by dipping to surface in flight to catch fish, by catching small birds in flight, also by harassing other birds and forcing them to drop their food. Forages over land mostly by hovering and dropping on prey.


2, rarely 1-3. Olive to brown, blotched with dark brown. Incubation is by both parents, 25-27 days. Young: May leave nest a few days after hatching, but remain in general area, are fed by both parents. Age at first flight about 31-27 days; dependent on parents at least 2 more weeks.


May leave nest a few days after hatching, but remain in general area, are fed by both parents. Age at first flight about 31-27 days; dependent on parents at least 2 more weeks.


Includes fish, rodents, birds. Diet varies with location. At sea, usually eats fish, also smaller birds and some carrion or refuse. Breeding birds feed heavily on lemmings and other rodents; non-breeding birds in summer around tundra have more varied diet, including birds, eggs, fish, carrion, insects.


At least in some regions, much more likely to nest in years when rodent populations are high. Birds younger than 4-5 years old attempt nesting only in such good seasons. Defends nesting territory against other species of jaegers. In courtship, members of pair face each other, vibrating wings and calling. Male may feed female. Nest site is on open ground, sometimes on slightly raised ridge or hummock. Nest (built by both sexes) a shallow depression, often lined with bits 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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Most migration is offshore. Migrates later in fall than other jaegers, especially young birds, with juveniles rarely seen south of the Arctic before October. Some apparently migrate to far southern oceans, but others remain off North American coasts in winter. Very rare inland, but such strays may appear in summer as well as during migration seasons.

  • 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.

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Songs and Calls

Harsh chattering calls; a harsh which-yew.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Pomarine 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 Near You

Climate threats facing the Pomarine 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.