Species: Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

Information About

Arctic Tern

Quick Facts

Sterna paradisaea


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Viewing Scale

Chances of seeing Arctic Tern in Alaska

Arctic Tern in Detail.

| | The Sterna paradisaea, also known as the Arctic tern, is a migratory bird that is found throughout the world's oceans, including the Arctic regions. During its annual migration, the Arctic tern travels from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again, covering a distance of over 40,000 miles (70,000 km) each year. Making them the furthest traveling regularly migratory animal. Arctic Terns often live up to 20 years and may have traveled around 1,500,000 miles before dying. During their migration between the poles they stick to the open water, being rarely seen from land.

Arctic terns are 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. They have shorter beaks for their family because they spend more time in colder climates and beaks act as a heat sink. Their backs are a medium gray, while their breast are white. Arctic Terns also have short legs and webbed feet.

In Alaska, the Arctic tern breeds in coastal areas, usually on rocky islands and shores. These birds are typically monogamous, and both parents take part in raising the chicks. Arctic terns feed on a variety of fish and small marine organisms, which they catch by diving into the water from the air. Arctic tern are 3-4 years old before they begin breeding. Nests are usually top ground depressions and may contain 1-3 eggs to a clutch. Eggs usually hatch within 3-4 weeks, however, if a nest is constantly disturbed incubation can last up to 5 weeks.

The Arctic tern is a fascinating bird to observe in its natural habitat, as it is known for its acrobatic flight maneuvers and its distinctive calls.

Habitat & Range

Arctic 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.


Pictures of Arctic Tern.