Arctic terns are famous for undertaking the longest migration of any bird. Some individuals travel from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again over the course of a year. Their migration means that they never feel the full effects of winter - when the northern hemisphere experiences its winter months, the birds are in the southern hemisphere, and vice versa. Arctic terns breed in northern latitudes such as the UK, as well as in the Arctic circle.
Did you know?
Arctic terns fly the equivalent of three round trips to the Moon in its lifetime.
Scientific name: Sterna paradisaea
The ‘swallow of our seas’ is one of the most impressive and beautiful seabirds.
The ‘swallow of our seas’, the Arctic tern is arguably one of the most impressive and beautiful of our seabirds.
The ‘Swallow of our Seas’, the Arctic tern is arguably one of the most impressive and beautiful of our seabirds.
The ‘Swallow of our Seas’, the Arctic tern is arguably one of the most impressive and beautiful of our seabirds. Every year this tiny bird flies all the way from the Antarctic Ocean to northern isles like Orkney just to breed. In its lifetime, an Arctic tern may have travelled as far as the moon and back 3 times. That’s amazing.
Arctic terns migrate 12,000 miles to fish where the sun doesn't set.
David Attenborough visits an Arctic tern colony in Spitzbergen. Parent birds can fish 24 hours a day because of the midnight sun in the Arctic summer. The terns migrate 12,000 miles from the Arctic to Antarctic and thus experience two summers a year. They return to exactly the same nest sites every year.
The following habitats are found across the Arctic tern distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
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Frozen Planet is Sir David Attenborough's latest exploration into the remote and isolated polar environments.