Tyne & Wear

Arctic tern in record-breaking migration from Farne Islands

Three of the Arctic terns Image copyright Newcastle University
Image caption It was the first time the terns' annual migration had been mapped

A tiny sea bird has made the longest known annual migration, flying from Northumberland to Antarctica and back.

The Arctic tern, which weighs less than an iPhone, covered 96,000km (59,650 miles) in its journey to its winter home in the Weddell Sea before returning to the Farne Islands.

It was part of a study carried out by scientists at Newcastle University for BBC's Springwatch.

Last year, 29 birds were fitted with geolocators by the researchers.

'Humbling'

They have now returned to the islands to breed.

The previous record had been held by an Arctic tern that covered 91,000km (56,545km) on its flight from the Netherlands.

Dr Richard Bevan, from Newcastle University's School of Biology, said: "It's really quite humbling to see these tiny birds return when you consider the huge distances they've had to travel and how they've battled to survive.

"So far we've managed to catch 16 of our tagged birds from last year and we've seen at least another four birds with our geolocators attached."

They tracked the bird as it flew down the coast of West Africa, crossed into the Indian Ocean and eventually arrived in Antarctica, he said.

"Further analysis of the data from these trackers will allow us to get a better understanding of how the Arctic terns organise their migration and how global climate change may affect their routes."

The tern arrived in Antarctica four months after setting off from Northumberland.

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