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Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

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River of Birds - Arctic Tern

One of the world champions of long-distance migration is the Arctic Tern. Arctic Terns nest across the far northern reaches of the continent during our summer, then fly south to Antarctica for the rest of the year. Some will circle the polar ice-pack before heading north again, completing a total... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Why Arctic Terns Have Short Beaks

The bill and legs of Arctic Terns are shorter than those of Common Terns. Because Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic and winter in the Antarctic, they are subject to much colder weather than are Common Terns. Birds' bills and legs lose heat, because they're not covered by feathers. Birds in cold... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science

Migration - Long, Short, and In-Between

In September, this Arctic Tern flies from Alaska all the way to Antarctica. Rufous Hummingbirds follow pathways of mountain wildflowers, from as far north as Alaska south to Mexico. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, migrate altitudinally from the mountains to the lowlands. Each of these birds migrates, but... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Arctic Terns Select their Mates at Potter Marsh

Did food play a role in your courtship? Well, Arctic Terns share a food-related ritual. Early in the breeding season, a female Arctic Tern perches near a possible nesting site. The male appears carrying a small fish in its bill. The female pauses for a few minutes to “check him out” before she... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display

Long-distance Champions of Migration - With Scott Weidensaul

Arctic Terns are the long-distance champions of migration. Thanks to satellite transmitters and geolocators, we know that some Arctic Terns travel more than 50,000 miles annually! Scott Weidensaul, naturalist and author of Living on the Wind, says these technology tools “make the issue of bird... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

A Vast Unseen Migration

During late summer, these Sooty Shearwaters will join a vast migration, when millions of seabirds fly over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Jaegers that nested on the Arctic tundra are flying south to tropical oceans. Arctic Terns and skuas make an epic journey to Antarctic waters. Shearwaters in... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration
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