Friday, August 26, 2011

The Arctic Tern - Frequent Flyer

Arctic terns may be considered seabirds, but they don’t spend very much time on the ground. In a single year an arctic tern may fly over 44,000 miles, an amazing but necessary feat for a bird that spends its summers and winters on opposite ends of the earth. Arctic terns may fly over 1.5 million miles in their 20+ year lifetimes.
During the northern summer arctic terns can be found throughout coastal regions of northern Europe, Asia and North America nesting. Once the northern winter draws near, the terns will set out for their southern home in Antarctica. Because they fly with prevailing winds, the journey south may be up to 14,000 miles long. Whereas terns will stay on coastal land during the northern summer, they spend their time in Antarctica on and around pack ice during the rare times they’re not in the air.

Arctic terns are primarily carnivores and feed most often on small varieties of fish such as herring and cod, usually diving down to the surface to snatch the fish out of the water. In addition, they will also feed on crustaceans, berries and insects during the northern summer.

Once they have reached their third or fourth year of life arctic terns will begin breeding; pairs will usually mate for life. Chicks are born after about a month of incubation and must quickly learn to fly and hunt before making the long trek south for the winter. It is likely that all birds in the family will return to the same nesting site for the rest of their lives.

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