The Arctic Tern has one of the longest migrations of any avian species only to be rivaled by the sooty shearwater. In addition to this amazing migration, they are also one of the only birds that are able to hover. Common Terns and Arctic Terns are often confused with one another. The way to distinguish between the two is the bill, the latter of the two has a deep red colouration, whereas the former has a more orange bill which is tipped with black.


This species resides in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere in summer, and takes an unbelievable migration to Antarctica during the winter months. The best places to see the Arctic Tern is along the coast, and in Britain they appear above North Wales to the very tip of the Shetland Islands in Scotland.


Arctic Terns dive into the water at speeds of upto 30 kilometers an hour in order to find fish and crustaceans such as; sand eels, whiting, sprat, shrimp and small crabs.

Predators & Threats

Natural predators of this species include; foxes, domestic animals and other large marine birds like the Skua. Threats from humans are primarily habitat degredation, the introduction of plastics and pollutants into their environment and accidental capture in fishing nets.


  • Arctic Terns migrate upto 90,000 kilometers every year. Over their life span it is expected that that they can travel upto 2.5 million km.
  • This species is extremely intelligent and can take complex migrations in order to avoid bad weather.
Common Name(s)Scientific Name
Arctic Tern, Sea Swallow. Sterna paradisaea
 35-40 cm
 Upto 4 years.

Best Time to Look

April – October

Where to find Arctic Tern