Long-tailed JaegerStercorarius longicaudus

adult
Hanne & Jens Eriksen/VIREO
adult
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult
Glen Tepke/VIREO

Description

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.

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.

Feeding 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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

Conservation

Local breeding populations fluctuate sharply with changes in food supply; overall numbers probably more or less stable. No evidence of widespread trends in population.

Range

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.

Listen

alarm calls

Similar Species

adult, breeding

Heermann's Gull

Every summer, flocks of these distinctive gulls move north along the Pacific Coast from their nesting grounds in western Mexico. This movement is timed with the northward flight of Brown Pelicans; when a pelican comes to the surface after plunging into the water for fish, a Heermann's Gull is often waiting to try to snatch the fish from the pelican's pouch. Although this gull is not large, it is aggressive, harrying other birds to make them drop their catch.

adult, light morph, breeding

Parasitic Jaeger

This is the mid-sized member of the jaeger trio, and the most familiar, as it is the one most likely to be seen from shore. Variable in plumage, it occurs in dark, light, and intermediate morphs.

adult, breeding, light morph

Pomarine Jaeger

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.

Vireo

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