jaeger (yāˈgər) [key], common name for several members of the family Stercorariidae, member of a family of hawklike sea birds closely related to the gull and the tern. The skua is also a member of this family. Jaegers and skuas are stocky, powerfully muscled birds with long, pointed wings, long tails, strong, hooked bills, and sharp, curved talons. They are tireless, wide-ranging flyers of the open seas. Their piratical habits give them the names robber gull and sea hawk. Jaegers and skuas rob the food of their smaller relatives, teasing and harassing them until they drop their prey. They also feed on the eggs of colonial sea birds, especially those of penguins. The skua ( Catharacta skua ) is the largest and darkest of the family, a denizen of the N Atlantic, though it breeds south to the antarctic. Of the three jaegers ( Stercorarius species), all of northern oceans, the largest is the pomarine jaeger (also called jiddy hawk), the most common the parasitic jaeger, and the most graceful the long-tailed jaeger. All these birds are mostly blackish-brown above and white below, with a gilding of the head and neck in the older birds. Jaegers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Charadriiformes, family Stercorariidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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