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This page tells about the amazing Arctic Tern. It is part of our Arctic Wildlife series.


The Arctic Tern is well-known for its amazing migration. In one year, it may migrate over 25,000 miles from its Arctic breeding grounds to its Antarctic wintering grounds. The Arctic Tern is a particularly long-lived bird. Individuals that are 34-years-old have been banded.

Measuring about 15 inches in length, the Arctic Tern has a gray forehead, crown, and nape, white underparts, and a light gray body. The tail is deeply forked. The bill and feet are bright red. Non-breeding birds have a white forehead and black bill. Males and females are similar. It is told from the similar Common Tern (during breeding season) by its completely red bill. The Common Tern's bill is tipped with black.


Small fish, crustaceans, insects. The Arctic Tern plunges into the water to catch prey. It occasionally catches insects in mid-air.

Arctic Tern

A Beautiful Arctic Tern

Range and Habitat

The Arctic Tern breeds throughout the northern hemisphere. In North America, it breeds throughout Alaska, northern Canada and the Atlantic coast, south to Massachusetts. During migration, it can be observed along both coasts, but often migrates far off-shore. The Arctic Tern winters on Antarctic pack ice. It is found in open tundra, rocky coasts, open ocean, pack ice (in winter)


The Arctic Tern is declining in numbers.


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