Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Parasitic Jaeger - Stercorarius parasiticus
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments Though the Parasitic Jaeger is probably more numerous globally than the Pomarine Jaeger, in our waters is it less often seen on pelagic trips, in part because most of them supposedly migrate north and south within a few miles of the coastline, a narrow zone through which boats are quickly passing. It is surprising how infrequently this species is seen on pelagic trips, considering that it is a reasonably common breeding bird in the Arctic tundra. Fortunately, Parasitics are often seen from shore by birders carefully and patiently scanning the ocean with scopes; however, as the species looks similar to the Pomarine Jaeger, misidentifications are likely common, particularly as the birds are often 1/4-mile or more away. Offshore, this species can be confused with both Pomarine and Long-tailed jaegers. As with the Pomarine Jaeger, there are a few far-inland records, and there are also a modest number of coastal and offshore records in winter, when its distribution and range is still not well understood.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S1N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient, and poorly-known winter visitor/resident, to the offshore zone and the inshore ocean. Uncommon in spring and fall, and rare to uncommon in early winter (and in midsummer), both offshore and as seen from the coastline. Rare in Jan and Feb, though records increasing at this season. Apparently just one known record from the Tidewater zone -- a dark-morph bird photographed in Rose Bay at the Bell Island Fishing Pier (Hyde), on 20 Nov 2022. One record for an inland area: 10 seen at Lake Waccamaw on 13 Sep 1984, with 1 there on the following day (after Hurricane Diana). Mostly from early May to mid-Jun, and early Sep to late Nov; however, there are records for all 12 months, including six from mid-Jan to late Feb. Peak counts, from all-day sea-watches at Cape Hatteras Point in 2021: 42 on 22 Apr, 37 on 22 May, 29 on 15 Apr, 24 on 11 Apr, and 23 on 25 May. Peak count from this cape in spring 2022 was 41 on 30 Apr 2022; and in fall, 42 tallied on 17 Nov 2022. Peak counts elsewhere: 22, Atlantic Beach, 23 Oct 1983; 20, off Oregon Inlet, 25 Oct 1985; winter -- 13 on the Southport CBC, 4 Jan 2015.
Piedmont Visitor to lakes and reservoirs, mostly storm-related. Casual to very rare, with seven records: 1 at Jordan Lake from 17 Nov - 3 Dec 1991; 1 at Jordan Lake on 6-7 Sep 1996 (after Hurricane Fran); 1 at Lake Norman on 11 Sep 2004 (after Tropical Storm Frances); 1 at Falls Lake on 10-11 Sep 2011; 1 adult at Jordan Lake on 14 Sep 2018 (after Hurricane Florence); an immature at the last lake on 17 Sep 2018; and a dark-phase bird at Lake Norman on 31 Aug 2023 (after Hurricane Idalia).
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips This species can be seen from shore almost anywhere along the coast, though Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras Point are the best spots in spring, and the Bodie-Pea Island beaches are best in fall, as well as at nearby Jennette's Pier in Nags Head. The best times to look are during or just after strong E winds, in May and from late Oct to early Dec. Several can be seen in a few hours on good days. On pelagic trips, this is an uncommon bird, even during the peak of migration; your best bet on a pelagic trip is in late May, and in Oct.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-10], LeGrand[2023-03-18], LeGrand[2023-03-11]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.