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Arctic Tern Migration

The Arctic Tern migration is quite an impressive journey considering that they fly almost from Pole to Pole, covering over 10,000 miles each way.

In the Spring, Arctic Terns migrate North to their breeding grounds (shown in red on the migration map).
In early Fall, they fly back South to the Antarctic region where they spend the Winter (blue).

Arctic Tern Chicks

  Common Name:
  Scientific Name:
  Arctic Tern
  Sterna paradisaea
  Breeding Range:
  Winter Range:
  Alaska & Northern Coastal Regions
  Coastal Antarctic Regions
  32 to 35 cm (Adult)
  80 to 120 grams (Adult)

A large contingent of Arctic Terns migrate to Alaska coastal regions in late spring every year.

Terns Fighting Over Baby

Arctic Tern with water dropplets

Arctic Tern Feeding a Chick

Arctic Tern Feather

Arctic Tern Chick

Arctic Tern Feeding a Chick

Arctic Tern High Definition Videos

A series of videos of Arctic Terns in action. All videos are available in full HD. Some videos are available in 60 or 120 frames per second.

Arctic Terns Fighting

Who's Your Daddy?
Arctic Tern Feeding

Greedy Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern Chicks

Arctic Tern Chick Testing Wings

Arctic Tern chick in the marsh during the summer in South Central Alaska.

Arctic Tern Chick Eating Big Fish

Throughout the day, the Adult Terns bring back small fish and insects to feed their chicks.

Arctic Tern Life in the Marsh

After traveling several thousand miles to Alaska, the Arctic Terns get busy in the marsh fishing and finding a mate.

Arctic Tern Feeding Mate
Arctic Tern Mating

Photo at left: Arctic Tern mating ritual. Below: Arctic Tern feeding chick.

Arctic Tern Feeding Chick

Arctic terns in the marsh in Alaska.

Arctic Tern Rescue

Arctic Terns have compassion too: the female Tern in the water, which had just been attacked by a Gull, was about to drown ...

The whole series of pictures taken during the event reveals an extraordinary display of love and heroism from this pair of Arctic Terns. The injured Tern�s mate rushed to her rescue by repeatedly trying to pull her out of the water using his beak.
Click to see the Arctic Tern Rescue. >

Arctic Tern Reproduction

Summers are fairly short in Alaska. Arctic Terns only have a narrow window to incubate their eggs and raise their chicks. They usually lay 1 to 3 eggs directly on the ground. This series of pictures documents a wonderful event of nature when a Tern chick just breaks the egg shell and emerges into the world.

Cleaning up the Nest

Arctic Tern feeding chick that hatched just minutes ago. The Tern chicks grow very quickly during the first few days. In this nest, the second egg has not yet hatched.

A happy Tern family: the proud parents attend to their first born while the second egg is still being patiently incubated.

Arctic Tern Chicks

Arctic Tern chick in a ball of fluffy duvet on the second day after hatching. Exploring the new world around the nest.

Arctic Tern Chick Testing Wings

Throughout the day, the Adult Terns bring back small fish and insects to feed their chicks.

Arctic Tern Photos

Pictures of Arctic Terns in action in the marshes of Alaska. Pictures taken during the summer.

Arctic Tern Life in the Marsh

All summer long, Arctic Terns have the primary goal of raising their chicks. In just a few months, the chicks will need to be strong enough to undertake the migration back to the South Pole. The parents are busy catching small fish, aquatic insects or Dragonflies almost all day long.

Beneath the Wing

Although the summers may be hectic, Arctic Terns will spare a few tender moments with their little chicks. They are seen here bonding and cuddling.

Twin Tern Chicks

Arctic Terns in Flight

Arctic Terns are extremely fast when in flight. They are also very good at catching fish and small crustaceans wandering near the surface of the water.

Nursing the Tern Chicks

Shortly after the long Spring migration and reaching their breeding grounds, Arctic Terns only have a few weeks to build their nest and raise their chicks.

Arctic Tern Nest

Arctic Tern and Eggs

Arctic Terns usually lay 1 to 3 eggs. Colored with dark brown spots, Tern eggs are well camouflaged and rest in a small depression directly on the ground. Parents take turn incubating the delicate eggs. After approximately 3 weeks of incubation, the eggs finally hatch.

Above Left: Arctic Tern parent keeps its chick warm under the protection of its wing.

Juvenile Arctic Terns

Growing Tern chicks approximately two weeks after hatching.

Arctic Tern Mating

In a race against time, Arctic Terns are busy starting a new family. Adult Terns only have a few short months to raise their chicks before they all have to start their long migration to the South Pole.

During courtship, the male Tern brings a fish to the female as an offering.

There isn't a moment to spare. Soon after, there will be a few chicks to feed.

Arctic Tern Love Dance

During courtship, one of the partners brings a fish and initiates a love dance.

Feeding Arctic Tern Babies

This Arctic Tern has 2 hungry chicks to feed this summer. With a small fish in its beak, the Tern feeds the chicks all while hovering above them.

Left: The Arctic Tern twins are fighting over a tiny fish. Sibling rivalry is inevitable ...

Twin Chicks

Raising twin chicks is a full time job, requiring the attention of both parents.

Arctic Tern Chick Learning to Eat

This young Arctic Tern is learning the hard way how to eat a Dragonfly. It's tougher than it looks when your meal is fighting back at you with its long legs. It took a while, but in the end, the Dragonfly ended up in the Tern's stomach.

Arctic Tern Juvenile

This young Arctic Tern is testing its new wings and discovers the joy of flying. But it's early July and the fall migration is fast approaching. Before the summer is over, the chick needs to gain enough strength to undertake the 12,000 mile journey south to the wintering grounds of Antarctica.

Happy Family

Growing Tern chick (left) is almost as big as its father (right). Happy Tern family enjoying a tender moment in the marsh.

Arctic Tern Attack

No Trespassing Allowed: Arctic Terns are very territorial birds and will not tolerate any strangers. In this scene, a chick from another couple wandered too close to the neighbour's property. The helpless chick learned a painful lesson.

Click to see this Arctic Tern Attack. >

Arctic Terns in the Sky

Arctic Terns are seen in close contact in the air. Is it an embrace or a fight?

Arctic Tern In Action

Left: Arctic Tern takes off.
Center: An Arctic Tern skims the surface of the water and catches a fish.

Too Big for the Chick

Arctic Tern parent is bringing a fish, but it's a little too big for the small chick.

Life in the Marsh

A Tern chick bathing in the sun. A Tern skimming the surface of the water. A Sandpiper whispering to his new friend. An Arctic Tern ballet dancer, and a chick jumping in the air. That's life as usual in the marshes of Alaska during the summer ...


A peaceful moment with an Arctic Tern and chick in this tender scene...

When Arctic Terns Attack

This duck is trespassing on the Arctic Tern's property.

Arctic Tern is not afraid of Mewgulls either.

Arctic Terns in the Marsh

Alaska is a heaven for migratory birds. Hundreds of Arctic Terns come every year to the marsh in late Spring. Arctic Terns, like Trumpeter Swans and Red Necked Grebes, mate for life.


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