Arctic Tern - Sterna paradisaea
The Arctic tern is 14-17 inches in length and has a wingspan of 26-32 inches. It has a white throat, neck, and breast, soft gray upperparts and wings, and a black cap on its head. It has a long, pointed, forked tail and pointed wings edged with a dark line. It has very short legs, and it looks like it is crouching down when it stands. During breeding season, its bill, legs, and feet are a bright orange-red. Males and females look alike.
The Arctic tern is circumpolar. That means it is found around the polar regions. In North America, it breeds across Alaska and northern Canada, south to northern British Columbia , the Hudson Bay, and along the Atlantic Coast to Massachusetts. It winters on the ice pack off of Antarctica. It is also found in Greenland, Iceland, and northern Europe and Asia.
The Arctic tern breeds on open tundra, in boreal forests, or on rocky islands and beaches. It winters on the ice pack off of Antarctica.
The Arctic tern mates when it is 3-4 years old. The male courts the female by chasing her in the air and then offering her a fish. The male selects a breeding territory and aggressively protects it. The Arctic tern nests in colonies.
The Arctic tern travels from pole to pole and back again every year. They don't fly in a straight line. they fly in a zig-zag pattern and may fly as many as 44,000 miles to each pol and back! Each fall, the Arctic tern heads east, flying across the Atlantic Ocean. It continues south down the coasts of Europe and Africa, flying until it reaches the Antarctic Ocean. In the spring, it flies north up the coasts of South and North America until it reaches the Arctic Ocean.
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Robin Carter