Arctic Tern

Sterna paradisaea

Order

CHARADRIIFORMES

Family

Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4

ARTE

Code 6

STEPAD

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Arctic Tern has a very large breeding range of 10,300,000 square kilometers. It breeds in tundra and in coastal habitats in northern Europe, northern Russia, Alaska, parts of the northern United States, and Canada. To reach its wintering waters in the southern oceans, it undertakes an incredible migration of at least 19,000 kilometers. The global population of the Arctic Tern is estimated at two million individuals, and this species has a conservation rating of Least Concern.

IBIRD EXPLORER GENERAL

PHOTO SHARING AND DISCUSSION

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Arctic Tern: This is a medium-sized, slim tern with gray upperparts, black cap, a white rump and throat, and pale gray underparts. The tail is deeply forked and white with dark edged outer feathers. The bill is dark red. The legs and feet are red. It has a buoyant, graceful flight with steady wing beats. It feeds on small fish, crustaceans and insects. Both sexes are similar in appearance.

 

Range and Habitat

Arctic Tern: Breeds on arctic tundra from Aleutians, northern Alaska & across northern Canada and south to northern British Columbia, northern Manitoba, Quebec, and Maine. Declining breeder in Massachusetts. Winters in Antarctica. Furthest migration of all birds: up to 22,000 miles round trip. They see more daylight than any creature since they are in both Southern and Northern Hemispheres during periods of longest days.

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Arctic Tern SONGS AND CALLS

Arctic Tern A1

"Keeyer" flight calls from pair.

Arctic Tern A2

Shrill "keeee-eer" alarm calls given near nest.

Similar Sounding


Voice Text

"Tr-tee-ar"

INTERESTING FACTS

  • Young terns migrate south with their parents but then remain in the Southern Hemisphere until they are two years old at which time they return to their birthplaces.
  • Because of their extremely long migrations, they hardly ever land. They spend most of their lives in the air.
  • During courtship, the male Arctic Tern will catch a small fish and fly as low as possible over a potential mate. If she notices him, she will join him in flight and they will mate soon after.
  • A group of terns are collectively known as a "ternery" or a "U" of terns.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

RANGE MAP HAWAII

About this Hawaii Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across the Hawaiian island.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

HELP ME IDENTIFY A BIRD

BACKYARD BIRDING

BIRDS AND BIRDING

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UnderpartsX

Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
CapX
The area on top of the head of the bird.
RumpX
The area between the uppertail coverts and the back of the bird.
Lower mandibleX
The lower part of the bill.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X