The Arctic Tern, World Traveller, Expert Navigator, Fisherman and Aviator

Arctic Tern In Flight

Tern Migration Map

The Arctic tern is indeed a world traveller. Each year it leaves the Northern Polar Region and takes a winding route around the oceans to the Antarctic, then back to the Polar North again. To the right is a map showing its breeding ground in Red, wintering ground in Blue and migration route in Green.

Each year this small but determined bird travels up to 80,000kms on its return trip to the Arctic.

This absolutely amazing small creature with a wingspan of less than 30 inches see's two summers each year and more daylight than any other animal on the planet.

arctic tern close up

The Tern returns to the Arctic each summer to breed. They mate for life and build nests in colonies near the water, to be near their food source which is made up mainly of small fish.

Courtship involves a very elaborate process involving various types of flights and movements.

They both decide on a location for the nest and both defend it from intruders, often attacking predators much larger than they are, even humans. The female lay's 1 to 3 eggs and during this time the male will feed the female.

Nest's are usually depressions in the ground which may be lined with grass and twigs. The eggs are camouflaged making them hard to spot by predators.

Arctic Tern Nest

The incubation period usual takes 3 to 4 weeks but can be a little longer. The chicks begin to explore their new surrounds very quickly, usually within a couple of days.

The chicks are cared for by both parents for about a month after which they gradually move out on their own.

Average life span for a Tern is about 20 years but some have been known to live over 30.

Tern Family

Terns favourite diet is fish such as small Cod, Capelin, Herring and Sandlance, etc. They will also eat Crab, Krill, berries and Insects.

The do not like to get in the water but rather pick up the fish from the water while in flight.

Terns love to fly and spend most of their life doing just that, they catch insects in flight, eat in flight and spend most of their time "on the wing".

Two Arctic Terns

Terns have been declining in number in some regions due to various reasons but have been doing very well in other areas.

It is estimated that there are approximately 1,000,000 Terns in the worldwide population.

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