Arctic tern migration, From the Artic to the Antarctic

The Amazing Migration of the Arctic Tern

August 21, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

The Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) is a relatively small bird that is able to achieve staggering feats of flight. They are easily recognizable by their rounded heads that are covered in smooth black plumage, while the rest of their bodies are white in color. Another interesting fact about the Arctic Tern is that its bright orange beak changes color to red during the breeding. But it is the Arctic Tern migration that has made this little bird specie famous.

The Artic Tern spends most of its life is spent in the air and fishing, very rarely coming onto land. Even searching for food is done whilst in flight, by catching insects out of the air or diving down to the water’s surface to snatch a fish. The only time this wonderful bird is seen on land is in the breeding season. They form great colonies of over fifty birds and are known to be extremely aggressive while tending to their young. As these remarkable birds are born to fly, it only takes a hatchling twenty-five days to fledge the nest and start its airborne life.

As soon as the young chick spreads its wings, it is able to join its parents on the world famous Arctic Tern migration. Using geolocators, a study in 2007 (published in 2010) revealed that these remarkable birds fly approximately 70,900 kilometers each year. If you add up all its flying time over the length of a bird’s lifetime, it could have flown to the moon and back more than once.

In 2011/2012, a tracing study of arctic terns breeding in the Netherlands showed that these birds averaged an annual migration of an astounding 90,000 km as noted in the official journal of the Netherlands Ornithologists’ Union.

Another interesting fact about the Artic tern is that if for some reason a young bird is separated from his parents, it will instinctively be able to find its way back to its birthplace. In the year 1982, it was widely reported among bird experts that a ringed chick left the Farne Islands in the United Kingdom and was picked up three months later in Melbourne (Australia). Another example of their flying ability was demonstrated in 1928, when a ringed chick left Canada on the 23rd of July and was located four months later. The chick had flown from Canada to South Africa in only four months! It is believed that the Arctic Tern enjoys more sunlight than any other bird on the planet, as it constantly searching for warm skies and an all year summer season.

The usual migration path of the Arctic Tern starts in the Arctic as soon as the days start getting shorter. They will travel past North America, cross the great Atlantic Ocean, fly over the southern region of Europe and the glide down the African coastline, with the Antarctic as their final destination. This migration path of the Arctic Tern may vary, as their path greatly depends on food supply.

This absolutely amazing bird is a natural marvel that still intrigues and fascinates scientists and researchers. There is no doubt that the Arctic Tern is the champion of all migratory animals on earth.

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