Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

previous  | next

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea


enlarge +

Arctic Terns
credit: Toivo Toivanen & Tiina Toppila

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

All Images

4 articles:

Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family

Description ADULT SUMMER Has gray upperparts, with black cap; underparts are palest on throat and cheeks and darkest on belly. In flight from below, flight feathers look translucent, with narrow, dark trailing edge to primaries; from above, wings look uniformly gray. ADULT WINTER Not seen here. JUVENILE Has white underparts, incomplete dark cap, and scaly gray upperparts. In flight, note dark leading edge and white trailing edge to inner upper wing (leading and trailing edges dark in juvenile Common). Legs are dull red, bill is completely or mostly dark.

Dimensions Length: 14-17" (36-43 cm)

Habitat Locally common nester on tundra and coasts. Migrates at sea and winters in Antarctic.

Observation Tips Easy to see in Arctic, May-Aug. Migrants seen on pelagic trips.

Range Mid-Atlantic, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, California, Southeast, Northwest, Alaska, New England, Florida

Voice A harsh krt-krt-krt.

Discussion Compared to Common, adult has smaller blood-red (not black-tipped orange-red) bill, different upper wing pattern (inner primaries pale gray in Arctic, seen as dark "wedge" in Common), longer outside tail feathers, shorter legs, and darker belly.