Migration of the arctic tern; green for summer, red for winter.
Migration of the arctic tern; green for summer, red for winter.
 
 
The Arctic tern has a forked tail.
The Arctic tern has a forked tail.
 
 
Close-up of an adult Arctic tern
Close-up of an adult Arctic tern
 
 
Female Arctic tern sitting on her nest of eggs
Female Arctic tern sitting on her nest of eggs
 
 
The eggs of an Arctic tern
The eggs of an Arctic tern
 
 
An Arctic tern chick
An Arctic tern chick
 
 
An Arctic tern looking for food
An Arctic tern looking for food
 
Arctic Tern
Topic(s):   Birds, Tundra Animals
Quick Facts
Type of Animal bird
Habitat arctic tundra, coastal marine areas
Diet small fish, crustaceans, insects
Migration yes
Male male
Female female
Baby chick
Group colony
Predators of eggs/young dogs, cats, foxes, skunks, other birds
Predators of adult birds owls, raptors
Endangered no

The Arctic tern sees two summers each year. It has the longest migration of any animal. This tern breeds in the Arctic. It spends the winter in Antarctica. That is about a 22,000 mile (about a 35,000 kilometer) trip each year. The tern spends most of its life in the air!

The Arctic tern is medium sized. It is about 13 inches (33 centimeters) long. It is white and gray with a black cap. Its wings have dark tips. The ternís tail is forked. Its beak and webbed feet are red. A young tern has a black beak and feet.

This tern does not breed until it is about three years old. A male will offer fish to a female during a fish flight. If she takes it, the two birds will mate for life. The couple will nest about every three years. Usually, they will go back to the same colony each time.

The tern nest is a shallow scrape on bare ground. The female lays about two eggs. They have brown spots. They blend in with the ground. Both parents care for the eggs. They hatch in about 24 days. Both parents feed the fuzzy babies. After they get feathers, they learn to plunge dive. They scoop up food close to the surface of the ocean.

The Arctic tern lives about 20 years. It is listed as threatened in some states. People used to use its feathers to make hats. Now, climate change and loss of habitat are dangers for this bird.

Resource information

Arctic Tern. Retrieved from http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/wildlife/BIRDS/terns.shtml

Species factsheet: Sterna paradisaea. Retrieved from http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3271

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (2009). Arctic Tern. Retrieved from http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Arctic_Tern/lifehistory

Arctic Tern. Retrieved from http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/448/_/Arctic_Tern.aspx

Animal Terms. Retrieved from http://www.treasureranch.com/treasure/rzuinfofiles/terms.html

Arctic Tern Habitat Model. Retrieved from http://www.fws.gov/r5gomp/gom/habitatstudy/metadata/arctic_tern_model.htm

Citation information

APA Style:† † † † Arctic Tern. (2013, March). Retrieved from Facts4Me at http://www.facts4me.com

MLA Style: † † † "Arctic Tern." Facts4Me. Mar. 2013. http://www.facts4me.com.

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