Beak of the Week – Pomarine Jaeger

Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)
Family: Stercorariidae

Though they spend the majority of their lives over the ocean, seabirds such as the Pomarine Jaeger occasionally get blown far inland by tropical storms. At first glance, Pomarine Jaegers may look like a rather large gull with a bulkier profile. They are powerful, direct fliers, and they use this ability to chase after and steal food from other seabirds. 

Pomarine Jaegers come in two different color morphs – light and dark – of which the light morph is more common. Light morph Pomarine Jaegers are dark-backed and light-chested, with a dark cap on their head that extends over much of the face and a strong dark band across their chest. They have a long beak that is hooked at the tip, and two spoon-shaped central tail feathers that project beyond the rest of the tail. Dark morph Pomarine Jaegers have a similar bulky shape, hefty hooked bill and unique tail feathers, but they are dark even on the underside. All Pomarine Jaegers, including the dark morph, have particularly large white patches on their wingtips that appear to flash while they are in flight, which can be very useful in identifying them from a distance.

By Aidan Healey, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon
Photos by Greg Lavaty

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