17 amazing Facts about Arctic Terns That Will make you surprise

The Arctic terns boast the record for the longest migration of any animal globally. They undertake an annual journey from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle. Unlike flying directly north or south, terns travel across oceans and continents, meandering the globe. 

One particularly determined tern flew nearly 60,000 miles, more than twice the planet’s circumference.

These small seabirds are naturally equipped to fly long distances. Their lightweight bodies, short legs, and narrow wings allow them to glide effortlessly through the air on a gentle breeze. 

Facts About Arctic Terns:

Arctic Terns: The Champions of Migration and Their Amazing Feats:

The arctic tern, a small seabird, is known to undertake the longest migration of any animal on Earth. To avoid harsh winters and predators and to take advantage of the abundant food sources available in both hemispheres at different times of the year, the arctic tern annually traverses the globe from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere and back again. 

This incredible journey covers a distance of approximately 45,000-60,000km (28,000-37,000 miles) annually, earning these birds the well-deserved title of the “Champion of Migration,” a term coined by Wells W. Cooke 🍪, the father of bird migration.

The Arctic Terns Migrate in Large Groups and Split at the Equator:

The Arctic Terns Migrate In Large Groups And Split At The Equator

During their annual migration, Arctic terns travel in large groups from northern Polar Regions like Alaska or Iceland, flying over the Atlantic Ocean 🌊 and along the coast of Europe. 

The congregation then splits at the equator, with half of the group flying along the coast of Africa (known as eastern Terns) and the other half along the coast of South America (known as western Terns). Both groups coordinate their landing in Antarctica almost precisely at the same time and place.

The Fascinating Coordination of Arctic Terns’ Northbound Migration:

Interestingly, the species’ northbound migration doesn’t involve such a distinct split at the equator. The route back to the northern polar region is relatively similar for large groups of Arctic terns.

This remarkable coordination is a testament to the species’ incredible navigational abilities and communication skills.

The High-Flying Arctic Tern: One of the Fastest Migratory Birds on Earth:

The High Flying Arctic Tern One Of The Fastest Migratory Birds On Earth

Arctic terns are known to be one of the fastest migratory birds, as they can fly at around 24 miles per hour. This is because they need to cover vast distances during their annual migration from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back.

Arctic terns have developed various physical, behavioral, and physiological adaptations to maintain this speed.

For instance, they have long and narrow wings, a lightweight and slender build, and a high-fat diet that provides the necessary energy to sustain their long-distance flights. Additionally, they use wind systems to their advantage, helping them cover greater distances with less effort.

The Impressive Flying Abilities of Arctic Terns: Sleeping and Gliding to Cover 6,000 Miles:

Arctic terns have developed unique ways to conserve energy and avoid unnecessary stops during their lengthy migratory journeys 🛤️ across the globe. They are capable of eating, resting, and even sleeping while flying.

This is achieved by using a gliding method rather than flapping their wings while covering vast distances ↕️ , which allows them to take advantage of low-pressure wind systems that carry them for miles without much effort. 

Their slender build, long and narrow wings, and lightweight make them suited to this type of flight. With their efficient gliding technique and ability to rest while flying ✈️, arctic terns can cover up to 6,000 miles without stopping.

Champion Migrants: The Fascinating Range and Behaviors of Arctic Terns:

Champion Migrants The Fascinating Range And Behaviors Of Arctic Terns

Arctic terns have a broad geographic range spanning the planet’s northern and southern polar regions.

Their remarkable migratory behavior enables them to move between the two hemispheres to avoid harsh winters and predators and exploit abundant food resources in different areas. 

During the summer in the north, arctic terns can nest in locations such as Iceland and Alaska, which offer ample food resources and relatively low predation. Alaska is home to the largest breeding population of arctic terns. 

Arctic Terns’ Migratory Journey and Conservation Challenges:

As the seasons change, the species migrates to the northern edge of the Antarctic ice to breed and feed during the southern summer.

The species prefer coastal habitats near bodies of water with abundant fish and low predation in these regions.

However, the vast geographic distribution of arctic terns poses challenges to their conservation and protection.

Arctic Terns: Lifelong Mates and Dedicated Parents:

Arctic Terns Lifelong Mates And Dedicated Parents

Arctic terns typically form breeding pairs that can last a lifetime after engaging in mating rituals such as fish flights and feather displays.

These pairs often return to the same breeding grounds in the northern Polar Regions for mating season, raising 1-3 hatchlings per breeding cycle. 

Although they reach sexual maturity around three years old, Arctic terns tend to breed only once every three years, which reduces their reproductive effort and increases their migratory effort.

Exploring the Impressive Lifespan and Migrations of Arctic Terns:

Arctic terns have a lifespan of around 34 years, which is relatively long for birds and comparable to other tern species, such as the sooty and white terns. 

These birds undertake extensive annual migrations, covering a distance of approximately 44,000-59,000 miles per year.

Over the course of their lifetime⏳, Arctic terns can travel a distance that is over three times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

Surviving on a Varied Diet: The Feeding Habits of Arctic Terns:

Surviving On A Varied Diet The Feeding Habits Of Arctic Terns

Arctic terns consume a variety of food sources, including fish, krill, mollusks, crab, and occasionally berries, when other food sources are scarce.

As carnivores, their diet is relatively diverse, which allows them to stay healthy and energetic 🤸‍♀️ during their annual migrations.

The arctic terns feed on small, schooling fish such as cod, smelt, and sand eels, which they catch by diving into the water at high speeds and using their beaks to grab the prey. In addition, krill, crabs, and mollusks are also beneficial for the arctic terns, providing fat, minerals, and energy for their successful migrations.

Kleptoparasitism in Arctic Terns: A Cunning Tactic for Securing Food:

Arctic terns are known to engage in kleptoparasitism, a behavior where an animal steals resources, such as food, from another animal.

These birds sometimes resort to this mischievous tactic to obtain food 🥗, startling other birds, such as common terns or auks, into dropping or abandoning their prey, which the Arctic tern then seizes for itself.

Small but Mighty: Exploring the Size and Build of Arctic Terns:

Small But Mighty Exploring The Size And Build Of Arctic Terns

Despite being one of the smallest members of the tern family, Arctic terns can travel farther during their annual migrations than other terns.

Their lightweight build enables them to be carried by the wind, reducing energy loss during their long journey. 

These birds typically measure 28-39cm (11-15″) in length and weigh 90-120g (3.2-4.2oz). They are characterized by small heads, short legs, and slim bills, and while male terns are usually slightly larger than females, the difference is insignificant.

Predators and Protective Behaviors of Arctic Terns:

Arctic terns face predation from various animals, including foxes, minx, rats, and other seabirds. These predators often target the arctic terns’ nests, prompting 🔜 them to be highly territorial and defensive of their eggs or fledglings. 

They employ an aggressive strategy to ward off predators by emitting loud screeches 🗣️and dive-bombing predators with their sharp beaks.

Even humans that interfere with arctic tern nests may experience this behavior. Their aggressive 😡approach is so successful that other bird species nest close to arctic terns to exploit their powerful protection.

The Unique Daylight Experience of Arctic Terns:

The arctic terns enjoy more daylight than any other animal on earth due to the timing of their migration. They move towards the hemisphere tilted towards the sun, depending on the time of year. 

During May-July, the Arctic terns experience the northern summer in the Arctic regions, while from November-February, they benefit from the southern summer in Antarctica. As a result, the Arctic terns live in a perpetual summer season all year round.

The Vulnerability of Arctic Terns’ Diet to Climate Change and Overfishing:

Insects are only consumed during the northern summer months when they are plentiful. However, the arctic terns are not adept at adjusting their diet when food sources are scarce, leaving them vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and overfishing that could alter the populations of their primary food sources in the future.

The Global Population of Arctic Terns:

The Global Population Of Arctic Terns

BirdLife International estimates that the global population of arctic terns in the wild is around 2 million, scattered across a vast geographic range due to their extensive migratory patterns. Conservation initiatives target densely populated breeding locations, such as Alaska, Iceland, and the UK.

The Noisy World of Arctic Terns: From Predator Deterrents to Fish Flights:

The Arctic tern’s call is described as boisterous, nasal, and rasping, similar to the calls of other tern species. This loud and grating call deters predators and humans who may disturb their nests. 

The Arctic tern also employs this call in a mating behavior called “fish flight.” During the fish flight, males catch a fish in their beaks and fly around, screeching to impress potential mates.

They will then offer the fish to a female tern, with more screeching and flapping. If the female is satisfied with the display, they may become a breeding pair.

In the end, we learned some amazing facts about the Arctic Tern. To know more such amazing facts visit our website.

Arctic Tern Facts

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Arctic tern is famous for having the longest bird migration, traveling over 70,000 km yearly.
  2. Arctic terns have a lifespan of up to 30 years and can travel over 2.5 million km in their lifetime.
  3. Arctic terns have a unique adaptation that allows them to navigate using the earth’s magnetic field.
  4. Arctic terns are colonial breeders, nesting in large groups on coastal or offshore islands.

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