Oklahoma’s first South Polar Skua, and one of only a few records for the interior of the continent, is busy terrorizing the avian residents of the lake where it has frequented.
This year has seen a slew of mind-blowing records in the ABA Area, from the unexpected Alaska Lesser White-fronted Goose to the ridiculous New Mexico Rufous-necked Wood-Rail. Add to that short list the ABA code 3 South Polar Skua found earlier this week on Lake Overholser by Tony and Jim Solorio in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, earlier this week. Pending acceptance, this is a first state record for Oklahoma.
The bird was initially found on 8/6 and ID’d as a jaeger species based on photos taken of the bird from an odd angle. Subsequent photos revealed the bird’s true identity, helped no doubt by reports that it was attacking, drowning, and consuming the area’s many Cattle Egrets.
Lake Overholser lies within the city limits of Oklahoma City, to the west of the city proper. The bird has primarily been seen from the boathouse and police station off of Overholser Drive on the east side of the lake, which offers an expansive view of the lake.
South Polar Skua is an uncommon, but regular, visitor to the waters of the ABA area and is almost exclusively seen well offshore. Records of this Antarctic breeder are far less common in the interior of the continent with a very small handful noted, most of which are associated with hurricanes or tropical storms. Those records include include two from the interior of North Carolina in 1984 (after Hurricane Diana) and 2006 (after Tropical Storm Ernesto), North Dakota (1989), Tennessee (2005, following Hurricane Katrina), and Georgia (2007).
An outlier is an odd record from Little Soda Lake, Nevada, from the 1980s of a recovered bird’s leg with a band that returned as a South Polar Skua. So far as I can tell, that record was unpublished and the documentation lost (fide Christopher Wood, Oklahoma listserv).
In any case, observers of the uncontroversial record have seen the bird on every day since the initial report, assaulting and occasionally depredating the resident terns, gulls, and herons. Truly a remarkable record and bird.
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