During a visit to Wellington last week, I
took the Wellington-Picton ferry at 9.30 am on Saturday 7 October,
2000. The crossing produced a selection of the expected species (Little
Blue Penguin, 3 Westland Petrel, Fairy Prion, 6 Shy Albatross, 1 imm. Giant
Petrel, Sooty Shearwater). About half way through the crossing a
Catharacta sp. skua passed the ferry (heading approximately NW). The bird
had a reasonably well-marked dark cap contrasting with tawny colouration on the
neck. My understanding from the local guidebooks is that the expected
Catharacta species would be C. lonnbergi (Brown Skua), which would not normally
show such characters. HANZAB includes lonnbergi in C. antarctica, and
mentions that some of that species show a cap, but I believe that those comments
would only really apply to C. a. antarctica/hamiltoni, i.e. the present C.
antarctica (Southern Skua).
My question therefore regards Catharacta skuas
in the region at this time of year. Was this actually likely to have been
a (returning?) dark-phase C. mackormicki (South Polar Skua) or are there C.
antarctica (sensu stricto) in New Zealand waters?
Donald Hobern, Auckland, NZ