The Pirate of the High Seas

As I sailed through the swarms of feeding kittiwakes, gannets and manx shearwaters a dark shape caught my attention. Fleeting between the wings of the other birds was a lone ranger, working without any group or partner, to terrorise the skies.

I see a small handful of these boisterous birds every year as they relentlessly harass other seabirds for their catches of fish.


Even though they dwarfed it in size, the great skua (or bonxie as they are called here) confidently cruised towards a group of gannets like a thug looking for its next victim to rob.


I couldn’t see any puffins bobbing about on the waves, and just as well, as the great skuas will readily attack and drown them before devouring them for a meal.


The bonxie made several swoops and dives before plunging into another group of startled birds and disappearing over the waves. That might be the only sighting I have of one this summer (the puffins will be relieved if so!), but despite their thuggish nature I have to respect their adaptation to a life of piracy – they certainly live up to their reputation as the pirates of the high seas.

More next week,



Photos: David Ainsley 


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