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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Arctic Tern

Sterna paradisaea ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A small, slender white bird, the Arctic Tern is well known for its long yearly migration. Its travel from its Arctic breeding grounds to its wintering grounds off of Antarctica may cover perhaps 40,000 km (25,000 mi), and is the farthest yearly journey of any bird.

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Appearance

Gull-like
Gull-like
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized tern.
  • White with black cap.
  • Tail long and deeply forked.
  • Wings white with some dark at tips.

Immature Description

Juvenile with brown or grayish bars across back. Immature resembles winter adult.

Range Map Help

Arctic Tern Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult breeding

    Arctic Tern

    Adult breeding
  • Adult breeding

    Arctic Tern

    Adult breeding
    • © 2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Nome, Alaska, June 2000
  • Adult breeding

    Arctic Tern

    Adult breeding
  • Adult breeding

    Arctic Tern

    Adult breeding
    • © 2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Nome, Alaska, June 2000
  • Adult breeding

    Arctic Tern

    Adult breeding
    • © 2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Nome, Alaska, June 2000

Similar Species

  • Common Tern very similar, but has longer legs, more black in wings, lighter gray underparts, orange-red bill usually with a black tip, and shorter tail.
  • Forster's Tern has longer, brighter orange legs, more orange bill with extensive black tip, whiter wings and belly, and black restricted to small mask around eye and ear in winter.
  • Roseate Tern much paler, with longer legs, long white tail streamers, and usually an all-dark bill.