Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Arctic Tern

The fragile arctic tern flies thousands of miles each year by breaking its long journey down and pacing itself. This 12-15 inch long bird takes an amazing migratory flight around the world and this long trek between summer and winter homes is completed many times during its 20-year lifespan.

The delicate features of the tern give little hint to what it accomplishes each year, but despite its size, it has adapted an awesome schedule of activity earning it a reputation of being the champion of migratory birds.

Each year it covers a distance of 22,000 miles in flight. Considering side trips for food and other purposes, the number of miles is mind-boggling to imagine. Each day it covers approximately 150 miles, flying around the world in a total of twenty weeks of migration.

For about eight months of the year, the arctic tern enjoys continual sunlight. In its migrational pattern it arrives at each of the poles in time to enjoy their summer days of 24 hours of sunlight. With its long flight it needs the extra daylight hours to gather enough food for energy to succeed in its long journey.

Terns eat small fish, shrimp, grasshoppers and flying insects. Spending a great amount of time flying over water, it's interesting to note that fog does not affect its ability to navigate.

The tern breeds at the North Polar Basin and as far south as the New England states. The parents are so devoted to nesting and raising their young that when the other bird wants to incubate the eggs, it has to literally bump the partner off the nest.

Terns nest in communities sometimes with nests as close as two feet to another. Since larger gulls are a threat to their eggs and young, there is security in numbers.

Pictures and More About the Arctic Tern

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