Habitat: The Arctic tern spends most of its non-breeding time over the ocean. It migrates along sea coasts and nests on the coast or on islands.
Summer Range: The Arctic tern breeds from northern Yukon, northern Mackenzie, Banks Island, Melville Island, Loughheed Island, Bathurst Island, northern Ellesmere Island, south through Yukon to northern British Columbia, southern Mackenzie, northwestern Saskatchewan, southern Keewatin, northern Manitoba, northern Ontario, James Bay, central and southeastern Quebec, Labrador, Newfoundland, and the coasts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
Winter Range: The Arctic tern is circumpolar. Their autumn migration journey begins in eastern Canada, across the Atlantic Ocean. Once they reach the west coasts of Europe and Africa, they travel southward to the waters off South Africa and the Antarctic Circle.
Food: Arctic terns eat fish, such as herring, cod, and marine invertebrates or crustaceans like crabs and krill.
Arctic terns spot prey from the air while hovering almost stationary over the sea, then dive for fish.
Breeding Behaviour: Arctic terns mate for life and often return to the same colony each year. If in danger, Arctic terns will aggressively defend their young. Parents feed their chicks fish for a considerable time and help them fly south to winter.
Nest Type and Egg Description: Nests are built on rocky, sandy, gravelly or grass-covered coasts, river gravel bars, islands and sometimes on open tundra. Eggs are camouflaged to prevent predation by rats and other animals.
Conservation Status: It is believed there are about one million Arctic terns in the world, but data is scarce so populations are difficult to determine, and there are no estimates for most of its’ breeding grounds. It is known that southernmost populations are declining and are listed as “of special concern.”
Information on this page compiled by Jessie Blake.
BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/.
Ehrlich, Paul R. 1988. The Birder’s Handbook. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Godfrey, Earl W. 1986. Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Hinterland Who’s Who. http://www.hww.ca
Leslie, Scott. 2006. Wetland Birds of North America. Key Porter Books, Toronto. NatureServe. InfoNatura. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura/