Fun Arctic Tern Facts For Kids

Akinwalere Olaleye
Oct 20, 2022 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Natalie Rayworth
Fact-checked by Chandan Shukla
Here are Arctic tern facts for kids.

The Arctic tern, or scientifically known as the Sterna paradisaea, belongs to the family laridae and are North American birds. They have a black cap on their head and the entire body is covered in white feathers.

Like most of the terns, the Arctic tern also relies on marine fishes for food. Arctic terns have angular wings with pointed wing-tips and are known for their year-long migration. During the non-breeding season, their legs and bill assume the black color.

Arctic terns migrate from their Arctic breeding grounds and reach Antarctica in summer, covering a distance of 25,000 miles.

Here are some really interesting Arctic tern migration facts to learn more about this majestic bird. After reading these Arctic tern bird facts, you may also check out swallow facts and hoatzin facts as well.

Arctic Tern Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Arctic tern?

Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) is a bird with a high metabolic rate. They survive the cold temperatures in Antarctica by consuming food that can be digested easily and provide maximum energy. They can mostly be found nearby their breeding grounds on coastal shores and on islands hunting fish.

What class of animal does an Arctic tern belong to?

Arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea) belong to the class of birds. They are a well-known North American bird and are known to migrate over a span of 12 months.

The Arctic tern migration route starts from the Arctic Ocean and ends all the way over in Antarctica in order to enjoy the summer there. They are known for their migratory skills and migrate farther than any other bird species.

How many Arctic terns are there in the world?

Wetlands International estimated the overall population of Arctic terns to be approximately 2,000,000 in the year 2015, but their population has been decreasing due to climate change and various other factors. They are also listed as a threatened species by the IUCN Red List.

Where does an Arctic tern live?

Arctic terns can be found in the coastal regions of the Arctic Ocean in winter and Antarctic Ocean in the summer. Arctic coasts and islands are the breeding grounds of Arctic terns. They can also be found near the Atlantic coast.

What is an Arctic tern's habitat?

Arctic tern habitat is mostly in extremely cold regions. They can survive in the Arctic and the Antarctic Ocean on pack ice where the temperature is extremely cold. During the winters, they travel to the northernmost points of the Arctic. Tundras, boreal forests, rock beaches, islands, and Atlantic coasts are all preferred habitats of the Arctic tern.

Who do Arctic terns live with?

Arctic terns migrate from their breeding grounds in the Arctic, to north Antarctica in their colonies. They are social birds and form colonies or groups consisting of their species. They can be found resting and preying on fishes on ice packs. These birds also are seen foraging with members of their colony.

How long does an Arctic tern live?

An Arctic tern is a bird with a long lifespan. These birds can live for decades, but the average lifespan of an Arctic tern is 20 years.

The longest lifespan of an Arctic tern was recorded to be 34 years. Their populations are threatened in a few states due to climate change and loss of habitat. Efforts for the conservation of these birds are being carried out in various regions.

How do they reproduce?

The summer breeding season for Arctic terns is during the months of April and May, in the cold regions of North America. Even though Arctic terns have a long lifespan, these birds do not breed until they reach three to four years of age.

During a new breeding season, adult Arctic terns often return to the same breeding grounds in which they were raised, and hence are known as ground-nesting species. Arctic terns mate for life and breed only once every three years.

Both parents take care of the young hatchling. Eggs are incubated by both parents.

The parents take care of the diet of the chicks and bring small fish to feed them. The Arctic tern chick leaves the parents after a nesting period of 21 to 28 days.

What is their conservation status?

The official conservation status of Arctic tern birds is of the Least Concern, but in some locations such as the Atlantic coast and Antarctic coast, these birds are also listed as Threatened species due to their evident decrease in population.

Arctic Tern Fun Facts

What do Arctic terns look like?

Arctic terns have a gray-white plumage with a black cap on their head. Their wings are angular in shape and has a pointed tip.

They have short legs, and they pick fishes from their beak. The Arctic tern wingspan ranges from 25-30 in (76-81 cm). The color of the bird varies according to the season and the age of the bird.

Arctic Tern

How cute are they?

Arctic terns are small birds that can survive in very cold climates. These fish eating birds are not very colorful or attractive. They are not cute, but look fierce when they fly because of their angular wings.  

How do they communicate?

Arctic terns communicate by producing different vocalizations and through body postures such as walking in a distinctive manner. The female is chased by the male who screams after her for courtship.

Most Arctic terns mate for life and the courtship is completed with a process called fish flight, where the male gives a small fish to the female. The male tern can also scream and chase the female with the fish in its mouth.

How big is an Arctic tern?

The average length of an Arctic tern is 11-15 in (27-38 cm), while the average wingspan is 30-32 in (76-81 cm). They are small, migratory birds who live in large colonies.

How fast can an Arctic tern fly?

Arctic terns can fly at a speed of 22-25 mph (35-40 kmph). These North American birds can cover massive distances in only a few hours and are known as the farthest migratory bird.

How much does an Arctic tern weigh?

The average Arctic tern weight is around 0.22 lb (0.09 kg). The weight of the male and the female Arctic tern is relatively similar.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no distinctive names for the male and female species of the Arctic tern. They are simply called male Arctic terns and female Arctic terns.

What would you call a baby Arctic tern?

A baby arctic tern is called a nestling or a hatchling.

What do they eat?

Arctic tern diet includes marine fishes like sand lances, herring, cod, smelt, and sand eels. They also rely on a few species of crustaceans for food. They only catch fish that are less than 6 in (15 cm) in length as part of their food requirements.

Are they aggressive?

Arctic terns are an aggressive guardian. They will become aggressive towards any other bird which will try to intrude on their nest or try to invade their territory. The Arctic tern is protective about their eggs and will poke the intruder bird with their beak and try to hurt it.

Would they make a good pet?

No, Arctic terns will not survive as pets as they prefer living in extremely cold climates and spend their time catching small fishes while resting on ice packs. They are migratory birds and migrate for a span of 12 months.

They are also very social and love living in huge colonies. If kept alone in isolation, they might not live for twenty years and will die sooner.

Did you know...

They belong to the special species of birds which have seen the most sun, and enjoy double summers due to their migration pattern. They are known for their extremely long duration of migration, which takes 12 months. The most common Arctic tern predators are foxes, cats, skuas, gulls, and petrels.

Migration patterns

The Arctic tern leaves its breeding grounds in the Arctic and starts migrating towards the Antarctic ocean. They stop near the North Atlantic in areas where there is high productivity of food for 25 days.

They resume their journey and take three months to reach the Antarctic ocean and enjoy the summer there, but only take 40 days to fly back to the Arctic ocean.

They reach the Antarctic in April or May where they mate and rear their young. They again start migrating south in July or August, and reach the south in the month of November to enjoy double summer by staying until April or May.

What does an arctic tern sound like?

The Arctic tern makes a "kee-kah" sound. They often give out shrill, high-pitched calls.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including hermit thrush, or blue grosbeak.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Arctic tern coloring pages.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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Fact-checked by Chandan Shukla

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

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Chandan ShuklaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

With a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Aryabhatta College, University of Delhi, Chandan is a skilled and passionate technophile. He has completed a machine learning training program and is adept in various programming languages. He has been working as a content writer for two years while also striving to become a proficient tech professional.

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