Cook Strait skuas

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Subject: Cook Strait skuas
From: "Donald and Rosemary Hobern" <>
Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000 01:02:16 +1300
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
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