Introducing Greenland’s Arctic Tern

Introducing Greenland’s Arctic Tern

December 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

In Greenland we find 235 different species of birds. Some of the most common species are the sea eagles, Arctic fulmars, black guillemots, eiders, ptarmigans and of course the Arctic terns.

Meet the Arctic Tern in Its Natural Habitat: Kitsissunnguit

The Arctic tern lives near the ocean or at the brim of lakes, and is found in great numbers in the archipelago Kitsissunnguit. Kitsissunnguit is located in Disko Bay, only a 1-2 hour boat ride away from the city Aasiaat. The islands of Kitsissunnguit have been preserved since 1988 due to the extensive birdlife and the many breeding Arctic terns. Birdwatchers still have access to the islands, giving bird lovers a unique view of the Arctic terns’ life in their natural environment.

Be Able to Identify the Arctic Tern

The Arctic tern is a relatively little bird, and it looks quite elegant with its white feathers and black forehead. It is approximately 33-39 cm in length and has a wingspan of 66-77 cm. The Arctic tern can become as old as 30 years and they live together in colonies when breeding. They mostly feed on small fish, such as capelins, fry and small crustaceans that live in the surface of the nearby ocean and lakes.

There isn’t much difference between the sexes, except for the males’ slightly longer tail feathers. When the terns are born they have a greyish or brownish down which is replaced with the white feathers with brown markings later on.

The Arctic terns start breeding at the age of two, arriving at Kitsissunnguit and places like it, in May and June before they go south for the winter. The Arctic tern is the longest flying bird, covering the immense distance from the Atlantic Sea to western Europe and along Africa’s west coast to the Antarctic waters. When reaching the coasts of Greenland, the Arctic terns start building their nests directly on the sandy beaches or in close vegetation near the lakes. They’ll then lay and nurture their eggs, and 21 days later the eggs will hatch and the youngs are born. The youngs stay in the nest for the next couple of days before they start exploring their nearby surroundings. After another 21 days the youngs start flying and they’re now all grown up.

An Incredibly Social Bird

The Arctic tern is a rather social bird that prefers to live together with a lot of other terns in big colonies. The colonies usually consist of 10,000-20,000 tern couples, and it is estimated that Greenland is visited by 65,000 mating couples in every heavy mating year.

With so many birds crammed together at a relatively small space gives the tern a great advantage relative to protecting themselves against predators. Most birds are threatened by dangers such as humans, foxes, gulls and falcons, but the terns are known for their ability to scare these off. It is so safe near the Arctic tern colonies, that other types of birds live right next to them for protection.

Article contributed by Mia Petersen

Fascinating Facts about Rhinoceros Hornbills

November 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

The rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) is a most unusual looking bird found primarily in the rain forests of Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Singapore, the Malay Peninsula and southern Thailand. Its large yellow-orange hornlike casque, curving upward from between its eyes as an extension of its beak, makes it immediately clear why this species of hornbill is associated with a rhinoceros. As one of the largest hornbills, adults weigh up to 3kg and are typically between 91 and 122 cm long. They have a lifespan of thirty-five years or more in captivity and there is little difference in appearance between the male and female of the species, other than the male having orange or red irises, and the female’s irises being whitish in color.

While the casque may be shaded in orange and yellow, the beak of the rhinoceros hornbill is mostly white. When in flight, the rhinoceros hornbill’s black wings curve around gracefully towards its head, while it’s white tail feathers with a perfect semi-circle of black spreads out like a fan. As omnivores, these fascinating birds eat fruit, insects, rodents, small reptiles and even smaller birds.

During the breeding period the female rhinoceros hornbill is completely dependent on her mate as she incubates the eggs and starts raising their chicks. Upon finding a suitable cavity in a tree trunk, the female lays one or two eggs while the male collects mud which the pair will mix with food and feces to close up the entrance to the nest. They leave a small hole in the newly made wall for the male to pass food through for the female and later for the chicks. The female also defecates through the hole to avoid soiling the nesting cavity. Around thirty days after the eggs hatch the female breaks through the wall and seals it behind her. Both parents continue feeding the chicks through a small hole until they are able to break through the wall on their own, at which point they are ready to fly.

Rhinoceros hornbills are not considered to be endangered at present, however deforestation is a problem which could impact populations in the wild in the future. Moreover, these birds are hunted as food, and ornaments are made out of their casques. Members of the public can play a part in conserving rhinoceros hornbills and other animals by refusing to buy ornaments or other products made from their body parts.

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