Arctic tern

This bird can give any cross-country runner a run for their money

Serge Ouachée

A medium-sized seabird renowned for its remarkable migratory journey, it undertakes an extraordinary odyssey between its breeding grounds in the high Arctic and its wintering habitats in Antarctica. This epic migration spans thousands of miles, making it one of the most impressive feats of avian navigation in the animal kingdom.

During its annual migration, the Arctic tern traverses vast distances, navigating across continents and oceans to reach its destination. This incredible journey allows the bird to capitalize on optimal breeding and wintering conditions in different hemispheres, ensuring access to abundant food resources and favorable environmental conditions throughout the year.

In preparation for its arduous migration, the Arctic tern must fuel up on a substantial amount of food to sustain its energy levels during the long journey. To accomplish this, the bird often makes a crucial stopover in the nutrient-rich waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, where it spends several weeks feasting on fish and crustaceans to replenish its reserves before continuing its migration southward.

Breeding colonies of Arctic terns can be found clustered along coastlines, where they establish nests on various substrates such as shingle beaches, gravel ridges, and lichen-covered rocks. These colonies provide essential breeding habitat for the terns, offering protection from predators and access to suitable nesting sites.

During the breeding season, Arctic terns engage in elaborate courtship rituals, with males performing aerial displays and offering gifts of fish to attract potential mates. Once paired, the terns work together to construct their nests and incubate their eggs, taking turns to care for the offspring until they are ready to fledge.

In addition to their impressive migratory feats, Arctic terns are known for their exceptional longevity, with some individuals living for over 30 years. This longevity, combined with their widespread distribution and adaptability to various habitats, underscores the resilience of these remarkable seabirds in the face of changing environmental conditions.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Algeria
2018
Vagrant
Angola
2018
Antarctica
2018
Non-Breeding
Argentina
2018
Australia
2018
Austria
2018
Passage
Belarus
2018
Vagrant
Belgium
2018
Breeding
Benin
2018
Bermuda
2018
Bolivia
2018
Bouvet Island
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Brazil
2018
British Indian T.
2018
Bulgaria
2018
Vagrant
Cameroon
2018
Canada
2018
Cape Verde
2018
Central Af. Rep.
2018
Vagrant
Chile
2018
Colombia
2018
Congo-Brazzaville
2018
Costa Rica
2018
Passage
Croatia
2018
Vagrant
Cuba
2018
Cyprus
2018
Vagrant
Czechia
2018
Vagrant
Côte D’ivoire
2018
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
2018
Vagrant
Denmark
2018
Ecuador
2018
Egypt
2018
Vagrant
Equatorial Guinea
2018
Estonia
2018
Breeding
Falkland Islands
2018
Malvinas
Faroe Islands
2018
Breeding
Finland
2018
France
2018
French Southern T.
2018
Vagrant
Gabon
2018
Gambia
2018
Germany
2018
Ghana
2018
Gibraltar
2018
Vagrant
Greece
2018
Greenland
2018
Breeding
Guadeloupe
2018
Passage
Guatemala
2018
Origin Uncertain
Guinea-Bissau
2018
Guinea
2018
Heard & McDonald
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Hungary
2018
Vagrant
Iceland
2018
Breeding
India
2018
Vagrant
Indonesia
2018
Vagrant
Ireland
2018
Israel
2018
Vagrant
Italy
2018
Vagrant
Japan
2018
Jordan
2018
Vagrant
Kuwait
2018
Passage
Latvia
2018
Breeding
Lesotho
2018
Vagrant
Liberia
2018
Libya
2018
Vagrant
Lithuania
2018
Breeding
Luxembourg
2018
Vagrant
Marshall Islands
2018
Vagrant
Mauritania
2018
Mexico
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Montenegro
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Morocco
2018
Mozambique
2018
Vagrant
Namibia
2018
Netherlands
2018
Breeding
New Zealand
2018
Nigeria
2018
Norway
2018
Breeding
Oman
2018
Passage
Panama
2018
Non-Breeding
Paraguay
2018
Peru
2018
Poland
2018
Portugal
2018
Puerto Rico
2018
Russia
2018
Breeding
Saint Helena
2018
Vagrant
Saint Pierre
2018
Senegal
2018
Vagrant
Serbia
2018
Seasonality Uncertain
Sierra Leone
2018
Slovakia
2018
Vagrant
Somalia
2018
South Africa
2018
South Georgia
2018
Spain
2018
Breeding
Sudan
2018
Passage
Svalbard
2018
Breeding
Sweden
2018
Switzerland
2018
Vagrant
Togo
2018
Turkey
2018
Vagrant
UAE
2018
Passage
US Virgin Islands
2018
Vagrant
Ukraine
2018
Vagrant
United Kingdom
2018
Breeding
United States
2018
Breeding
Uruguay
2018
Seasonality Uncertain

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No