Arctic tern

Arctic tern

The Arctic tern is famous for its long migration route: it flies from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again each year.



tern, migration, egg, migrating bird, nest, aquatic bird, aviation, beak, animal, vertebrates, bird, biology

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  • wingspan: 65-78 cm (25.59-30.71 in)

  • body length: 28-39 cm (11.02-15.35 in)
  • body mass: 85-125 g (2.998-4.409 oz)

  • body length: 28-39 cm (11.02-15.35 in)
  • body mass: 85-125 g (2.998-4.409 oz)


The Arctic tern is famous for its long migration route, the longest in the world. These birds breed in the polar and sub-polar regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, where they take advantage of the nutrient-rich sea in the summer. Then they escape the dark and cold Arctic winter and migrate to the Antarctic. Their route follows the continental shores; while certain flocks fly along the shore of West Africa, others go along the shore of South America. They stay in the Antarctic region until April or May. Their northbound track, forms an “S” up through the Atlantic Ocean, corresponding with the pattern of the prevailing global wind systems, so wind helps the birds to save energy. They may travel over 70 thousand kilometers (43,500 miles) on their annual migration.

The Arctic tern has excellent flying abilities thanks to the long and narrow wings and forked tail. Individuals may live for about 30 years and the total distance flown in a tern’s lifetime may exceed 2 million kilometers (1,243,000 miles).

Arctic terns mainly feed on small fish and marine crustaceans. They catch their prey by plunge-diving or dipping. They nest in large groups, in shallow holes in the ground. Females lay 2-3 eggs, which hatch in 20-24 days.

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