Arctic Tern of Alaska

C: Birds } O: Charadriiformes } F: Tern } G: Sterna } S: Arctic Tern

Common Name: Arctic Tern
Latin: Sterna paradisaea
Iñupiaq: mitqutaixaq, mitqutailxaq

Viewing Scale

Chances of seeing Arctic Tern in Alaska


Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) a medium seabird around a foot in length, and a wingspan of around 30 inches, has a long pointed tail when it flight displays a fork. They have black caps which extend up the back of their short necks, then come around the sides of their heads right under their eyes before meeting the top of their short (for a tern) orange beaks. Their backs are a medium gray, while their breast are white. Arctic Terns also have short legs and webbed feet.

Arctic Terns have shorter beaks for their family because they spend more time in colder climates and beaks act as a heat sync.


Arctic Terns are more like polar terns. They nest in Alaska before flying back to Antarctica for winter. Some even circumnavigate Antarctica before making their way back up to Alaska for the northern summer, flying over 40,000 miles in a year. Making them the furthest traveling regularly migratory animal.

During their migration between the poles they stick to the open water, being rarely seen from land.

Diet & Habitat

Artic Terns can be found throughout all of Alaska in the summer and prefer to feed upon fish, but while nesting inland they may feed on insects, and berries.

Breeding and Life

Artic Terns are 3-4 years old before they begin breeding. Nest are usually top ground depressions and may contain 1-3 eggs to a clutch. Eggs usually hatch within 3-4 weeks, however is a nest is constantly disturbed incubation can last up to 5 weeks.

Arctic Terns often live up to 20 years and may have traveled around 1,500,000 miles before dying.