The Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) is perhaps best known for its extraordinary annual migration, which is often cited as the longest seasonal distance traveled by any animal. It has long been known that the Arctic Tern breeds in the Arctic and migrates each year to spend the northern winter at high latitudes in the Southern Ocean. Until recently, what has been known about the Arctic Tern's migration has come from limited banding recoveries and at-sea observations. Thanks to new technology, however, far more detailed data on this small (<125 grams) bird's annual migration are now available. Egevang et al. (2010) fitted 11 Arctic Terns with miniature (1.4 gram) geolocators. They found that the annual distances traveled are, in fact, even greater than previously believed--more than 80,000 km annually for some individuals. All tracked terns migrated south to spend the austral summer (December–March) south of 58° S and between 0 and 61° W in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. This region, which includes the Weddell Sea, is particularly productive, and supports higher densities of a key prey for many seabirds, Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), than do other regions of the Southern Ocean. All birds began the return migration to breeding colonies in early–mid April, always traveling over deep water at considerable distance from continental shelf margins.
Egevang et al. note that the routes used for both the southbound and northbound migrations showed a high level of congruence with parts of those taken by Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) and Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), which also winter in the South Atlantic (although considerably farther north than the Arctic Tern). Thus, despite their small size, Arctic Terns apparently exploit the prevailing global wind systems (clockwise in the North, and counter-clockwise in the South Atlantic) much as the substantially larger shearwaters do, as has been previously suggested. These new geotracking studies found that the main wintering region was the marginal ice zone around Antarctica, which agrees with at-sea observations. The mean duration of the northbound migration was about 40 days (range 36 to 46). Mean duration of the southbound migration was about 93 days (range 69 to 103). (Egevang et al. 2010)
Egevang et al. (2010) provide the following summary of key statistics derived from their study, showing mean (range):
Total distance traveled on migration: 70,900 km (59,500–81,600 km)
Distance traveled on southbound migration: 34,600 km (28,800–38,500 km)
Distance traveled per day on southbound migration: 330 km per day (280–390 km per day)
Distance traveled on northbound migration: 25,700 km (21,400–34,900 km)
Distance traveled per day on northbound migration: 520 km per day (390–670 km per day)
Distance traveled within winter site: 10,900 km (2,700–21,600 km)
Perhaps most striking, the tracked birds were found to travel nearly twice the total distance generally cited for the annual Arctic Tern migration (typically quoted as ~ 40,000 km). Given that Arctic Terns can live for more than 30 years, the total distance traveled in a lifetime may exceed 2.4 million km, equivalent to approximately three round-trip journeys to the Moon. (Egevang et al. 2010)
Circumpolar; nests on Northern European islands and peninsulas from Iceland to Northern Russia/Siberia, British Isles, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, the Baltic Nations, Northern Alaska, extreme of Northern Canada, Greenland, Newfoundland, and south along Atlantic Coast to Massachussetts; winters in S. Hemisphere in subantarctic and Antarctic waters of Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native )
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range extends from northern Alaska east to northern Ellesmere Island, south to the Aleutian Islands, northwestern British Columbia, northwestern Saskatchewan, northern Ontario, New Brunswick, and along Atlantic coast, locally to Maine and Massachusetts; a disjunct colony exists in Puget Sound, Washington, and solitary nesters in northcentral Montana. Outside North America, nesting occurs in Greenland on all coasts; in the Palearctic north to Iceland, Svalbard, and Franz Josef Land, and south to the Netherlands and sparsely in Belgium, Ireland, and northwestern France; and in northern Russia and widely along Russian far eastern arctic coasts (Wrangel Island, Chukotska and Kamchatka Peninsulas south to Sakhalin Island) (Hatch 2002).
During the nonbreeding season, this species occurs primarily in the antarctic and subantarctic regions of the Southern Hemisphere, with small numbers reported throughout the year from Namibia to Mozambique, southern Australia, and New Zealand (Hatch 2002). Migrants occur widely in areas between the breeding areas and antarctic region.
Arctic terns are 14-17''(36-43 cm) long with a wingspread of 29-33''(74-84 cm). They are white with black caps and gray mantles, and a deeply-forked tail. In spring and summer, the entire bill is blood-red. Their legs are so short that the birds appear to be crouched when standing.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average mass: 100 g.
Length: 39 cm
Weight: 110 grams
Catalog Number: USNM 64404
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Birds
Sex/Stage: unknown; Adult
Preparation: Skin: Whole
Collector(s): F. Benner
Year Collected: 1873
Locality: Casco Bay, Peak Island, Cumberland, Maine, United States, North America
All terns live along seacoasts and around interior lakes and marshes.
Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; forest ; icecap
Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; coastal
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: NON-BREEDING: mostly pelagic, rarely in coastal bays and estuaries. Migrates primarily at sea along coasts. BREEDING: Nests on ground on rocky, sandy, gravelly, or grass-covered coasts and islands, in far north on islands in lakes and ponds and in marshes and on riverine gravel bars, sometimes on open tundra (Terres 1980). See Spendelow and Patton (1988) for further details.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1917 samples.
Depth range (m): 0 - 0
Temperature range (°C): -1.542 - 24.813
Nitrate (umol/L): 0.065 - 29.325
Salinity (PPS): 6.428 - 36.842
Oxygen (ml/l): 4.763 - 9.061
Phosphate (umol/l): 0.086 - 2.073
Silicate (umol/l): 1.179 - 70.561
Temperature range (°C): -1.542 - 24.813
Nitrate (umol/L): 0.065 - 29.325
Salinity (PPS): 6.428 - 36.842
Oxygen (ml/l): 4.763 - 9.061
Phosphate (umol/l): 0.086 - 2.073
Silicate (umol/l): 1.179 - 70.561
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
Stellwagen Bank Pelagic Community
The species associated with this page are major players in the pelagic ecosystem of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Stellwagen Bank is an undersea gravel and sand deposit stretching between Cape Cod and Cape Ann off the coast of Massachussets. Protected since 1993 as the region’s first National Marine Sanctuary, the bank is known primarily for whale-watching and commercial fishing of cod, lobster, hake, and other species (Eldredge 1993).
Massachusetts Bay, and Stellwagen Bank in particular, show a marked concentration of biodiversity in comparison to the broader coastal North Atlantic. This diversity is supported from the bottom of the food chain. The pattern of currents and bathymetry in the area support high levels of phytoplankton productivity, which in turn support dense populations of schooling fish such as sand lance, herring, and mackerel, all important prey for larger fish, mammals, and seabirds (NOAA 2010). Sightings of many species of whales and seabirds are best predicted by spatial and temporal distribution of prey species (Jiang et al 2007; NOAA 2010), providing support for the theory that the region’s diversity is productivity-driven.
Stellwagen Bank is utilized as a significant migration stopover point for many species of shorebird. Summer visitors include Wilson’s storm-petrel, shearwaters, Arctic terns, and red phalaropes, while winter visitors include black-legged kittiwakes, great cormorants, Atlantic puffins, and razorbills. Various cormorants and gulls, the common murre, and the common eider all form significant breeding colonies in the sanctuary as well (NOAA 2010). The community of locally-breeding birds in particular is adversely affected by human activity. As land use along the shore changes and fishing activity increases, the prevalence of garbage and detritus favors gulls, especially herring and black-backed gulls. As gull survivorship increases, gulls begin to dominate competition for nesting sites, to the detriment of other species (NOAA 2010).
In addition to various other cetaceans and pinnipeds, the world’s only remaining population of North Atlantic right whales summers in the Stellwagen Bank sanctuary. Right whales and other baleen whales feed on the abundant copepods and phytoplankton of the region, while toothed whales, pinnipeds, and belugas feed on fish and cephalopods (NOAA 2010). The greatest direct threats to cetaceans in the sanctuary are entanglement with fishing gear and death by vessel strikes (NOAA 2010), but a growing body of evidence suggests that noise pollution harms marine mammals by masking their acoustic communication and damaging their hearing (Clark et al 2009).
General threats to the ecosystem as a whole include overfishing and environmental contaminants. Fishing pressure in the Gulf of Maine area has three negative effects. First and most obviously, it reduces the abundance of fish species, harming both the fish and all organisms dependent on the fish as food sources. Secondly, human preference for large fish disproportionately damages the resilience of fish populations, as large females produce more abundant, higher quality eggs than small females. Third, by preferentially catching large fish, humans have exerted an intense selective pressure on food fish species for smaller body size. This extreme selective pressure has caused a selective sweep, diminishing the variation in gene pools of many commercial fisheries (NOAA 2010). While the waters of the SBNMS are significantly cleaner than Massachusetts Bay as a whole, elevated levels of PCBs have been measured in cetaceans and seabird eggs (NOAA 2010). Additionally, iron and copper leaching from the contaminated sediments of Boston Harbor occasionally reach the preserve (Li et al 2010).
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Arrives in breeding areas April-June (late May to mid-June in Beaufort Sea area), departs by August-September (Bent 1921). Migrates mainly well offshore.
Arctic terns hover 30-40 feet over the water on beating wings and then dive suddenly into the water with a splash, often completely submerging to catch small fishes such as capelin, sand launae, sand eel, and small crustaceans.
Comments: Eats small fishes and crustaceans obtained by diving from air into surface water.
Known prey organisms
Based on studies in:
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Comments: This species is represented by a large number of nesting occurrences (subpopulations).
Comments: Global breeding population is estimated at between 1 to 2 million pairs; includes primarily coastal estimates of about 12,800 pairs on the Atlantic U.S. coast; 80,000 pairs in Greenland; 200,000-500,000 pairs in Iceland; 72,000 pairs in Scotland; 70,000 pairs elsewhere in Atlantic Europe; 50,000 pairs in Baltic European countries; several hundred thousand in Russia; and several hundred thousand in Alaska (Lensink 1984, Hatch 2002). Few estimates exist for interior-nesting birds.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Status: wild: 408 months.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
They nest in colonies defended by the males in the rocky or sandy beaches of the far north. The nest usually consists of a hollow in sand, gravel or moss. In June-July, 2-3 brown or greenish eggs with brown speckles are incubated for 21-22 days. Young fly about 21-28 days after hatching
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous
Average time to hatching: 21 days.
Average eggs per season: 2.
Lays clutch of 2-3 eggs, June-July. Incubation, by both sexes, 20-24 days. Young are tended by both parents, may leave nest soon after hatching but remain nearby, first fly at 20-23 days (then still fed by parents). Nests usually in small scattered colonies, in large dense colonies only at southern edge of range.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Sterna paradisaea
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sterna paradisaea
Public Records: 9
Specimens with Barcodes: 14
Species With Barcodes: 1
Foxes, raccoons, weasels, rats, gulls, and other seabirds are all predators of terns and their eggs. Massive spraying of marshes with insecticides (DDT) for mosquito control has killed many terns through their consumption of DDT-laden minnows. In the last decade of the 19th century and in the first decade of the present one, plume hunters killed tens of thousands of terns for their plumage for women's hats.
US Migratory Bird Act: protected
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Secure: common, widespread, and abundant.
Status in Egypt
Comments: This species is vulnerable to food shortages, predation (including egg predation by humans), pollution, and habitat degradation and loss (Howes and Montevecchi 1993). Disturbance at colony sites could cause desertion or declines (Howes and Montevecchi 1993), but terns have also shown potential for habituation to human activity under certain conditions. Growing gull populations have displaced terns from breeding habitat in some parts of Atlantic Canada and increased predation on young and eggs (Lock 1992). Climatic warming could decrease abundance or change distribution of ice-associated prey species such as the Arctic cod.
Management Requirements: Gull control has been beneficial for this species in Maine (Buckley and Buckley 1984). See Minsky (1981) for discussion of tern management on Cape Cod.
Biological Research Needs: Very little is known about nonbreeders in the antarctic, where most of the mortality occurs. Better information is needed on wintering ecology in the southern hemisphere and threats to breeding populations in the northern hemisphere.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Once hunted for their feathers.
Comments: In Greenland, egg-collecting is an important source of mortality (Evans 1984a).
IUCN Red List Category
The Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) is a seabird of the tern family Sternidae. This bird has a circumpolar breeding distribution covering the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America (as far south as Brittany and Massachusetts). The species is strongly migratory, seeing two summers each year as it migrates along a convoluted route from its northern breeding grounds to the Antarctic coast. Recent studies have shown average annual roundtrip lengths of about 70,900 km (44,100 mi) for birds nesting in Iceland and Greenland and c. 90,000 km (56,000 mi) for birds nesting in the Netherlands. These are by far the longest migrations known in the animal kingdom. The Arctic tern flies as well as glides through the air, performing almost all of its tasks in the air. It nests once every one to three years (depending on its mating cycle); once it has finished nesting it takes to the sky for another long southern migration.
Arctic terns are medium-sized birds. They have a length of 28–39 cm (11–15 in) and a wingspan of 65–75 cm (26–30 in). They are mainly grey and white plumaged, with a red beak (as long as the head, straight, with pronounced gonys) and feet, white forehead, a black nape and crown (streaked white), and white cheeks. The grey mantle is 305 mm, and the scapulae are fringed brown, some tipped white. The upper wing is grey with a white leading edge, and the collar is completely white, as is the rump. The deeply forked tail is whitish, with grey outer webs. The hindcrown to the ear-coverts is black.
Arctic terns are long-lived birds, with many reaching thirty years of age. They eat mainly fish and small marine invertebrates. The species is abundant, with an estimated one million individuals. While the trend in the number of individuals in the species as a whole is not known, exploitation in the past has reduced this bird's numbers in the southern reaches of its range.
The Arctic tern was known as sea swallow describing their slender shape as they swoop over the water.
Distribution and migration
The Arctic tern has a continuous worldwide circumpolar breeding distribution; there are no recognized subspecies. It can be found in coastal regions in cooler temperate parts of North America and Eurasia during the northern summer. While wintering during the southern summer, it can be found at sea, reaching the northern edge of the Antarctic ice.
The Arctic tern is famous for its migration; it flies from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, the shortest distance between these areas being 19,000 km (12,000 mi). The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. One example of this bird's remarkable long-distance flying abilities involves an Arctic tern ringed as an unfledged chick on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK, in the northern summer of 1982, which in October 1982, just three months from fledging, reached Melbourne, Australia. Assuming a direct route of flight, the distance covered would have been more than 22,000 km (14,000 mi). Another example is that of a chick ringed in Labrador, Canada, on 23 July 1928. It was found in South Africa four months later.
A 2010 study using tracking devices attached to the birds showed that the above examples are not unusual for the species. In fact, it turned out, previous research had seriously underestimated the annual distances travelled by the Arctic tern. Eleven birds that bred in Greenland or Iceland covered 70,900 km (44,100 mi) on average in a year, with a maximum of 81,600 km (50,700 mi). The difference from previous estimates is due to the birds' taking meandering courses rather than following a straight route as was previously assumed. The birds follow a somewhat convoluted course in order to take advantage of prevailing winds. The average Arctic tern lives about twenty years, and will, based on the above research, travel some 2.4 million km (1.5 million mi) during its lifetime.
A 2013 tracking study of half a dozen Arctic terns breeding in the Netherlands shows average annual migrations of c. 90,000 km (56,000 mi). On their way south, these birds roughly followed the coastlines of Europe and Africa. Having rounded the southern tip of Africa, they then turned east, some flying approximately halfway to Australia before again turning south to eventually reach Wilkes Land in the north-eastern Antarctic. One bird flew several hundred kilometres along the south coast of Australia before turning south for the Antarctic, while one flew along the entire south coast of Australia, passing between Australia and Tasmania. Having reached the Melbourne area, it turned south and flew in an arc to Wilkes Land in the north-east Antarctic, passing the south-western tip of New Zealand's South Island en route. Once back in the Netherlands, this bird had journeyed c. 91,000 km (57,000 mi), the longest migration yet recorded for any animal.
Arctic terns usually migrate sufficiently far offshore that they are rarely seen from land outside the breeding season.
Description and taxonomy
The Arctic tern is a medium-sized bird around 33–36 cm (13–14 in) from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. The wingspan is 76–85 cm (30–33 in). The weight is 86–127 g (3.0–4.5 oz). The beak is dark red, as are the short legs and webbed feet. Like most terns, the Arctic tern has high aspect ratio wings and a tail with a deep fork.
The adult plumage is grey above, with a black nape and crown and white cheeks. The upperwings are pale grey, with the area near the wingtip being translucent. The tail is white, and the underparts pale grey. Both sexes are similar in appearance. The winter plumage is similar, but the crown is whiter and the bills are darker.
Juveniles differ from adults in their black bill and legs, "scaly" appearing wings, and mantle with dark feather tips, dark carpal wing bar, and short tail streamers. During their first summer, juveniles also have a whiter forecrown.
The species has a variety of calls; the two most common being the alarm call, made when possible predators (such as humans or other mammals) enter the colonies, and the advertising call. The advertising call is social in nature, made when returning to the colony and during aggressive encounters between individuals. It is unique to each individual tern and as such it serves a similar role to the bird song of passerines, identifying individuals. Eight other calls have been described, from begging calls made by females during mating to attack calls made while swooping at intruders.
While the Arctic tern is similar to the common and roseate terns, its colouring, profile, and call are slightly different. Compared to the common tern, it has a longer tail and mono-coloured bill, while the main differences from the roseate are its slightly darker colour and longer wings. The Arctic tern's call is more nasal and rasping than that of the common, and is easily distinguishable from that of the roseate.
This bird's closest relatives are a group of South Polar species, the South American (Sterna hirundinacea), Kerguelen (S. virgata), and Antarctic (S. vittata) terns. On the wintering grounds, the Arctic tern can be distinguished from these relatives; the six-month difference in moult is the best clue here, with Arctic terns being in winter plumage during the southern summer. The southern species also do not show darker wingtips in flight.
The immature plumages of Arctic tern were originally described as separate species, Sterna portlandica and Sterna pikei.
Breeding begins around the third or fourth year. Arctic terns mate for life and, in most cases, return to the same colony each year. Courtship is elaborate, especially in birds nesting for the first time. Courtship begins with a so-called "high flight", where a female will chase the male to a high altitude and then slowly descend. This display is followed by "fish flights", where the male will offer fish to the female. Courtship on the ground involves strutting with a raised tail and lowered wings. After this, both birds will usually fly and circle each other.
Both sexes agree on a site for a nest, and both will defend the site. During this time, the male continues to feed the female. Mating occurs shortly after this. Breeding takes place in colonies on coasts, islands and occasionally inland on tundra near water. It often forms mixed flocks with the common tern. It lays from one to three eggs per clutch, most often two.
It is one of the most aggressive terns, fiercely defensive of its nest and young. It will attack humans and large predators, usually striking the top or back of the head. Although it is too small to cause serious injury to an animal of a human's size, it is still capable of drawing blood, and is capable of repelling many raptorial birds and smaller mammalian predators such as foxes and cats. Other nesting birds, such as alcids, often incidentally benefit from the protection provided by nesting in an area defended by Arctic terns.
The nest is usually a depression in the ground, which may or may not be lined with bits of grass or similar materials. The eggs are mottled and camouflaged. Both sexes share incubation duties. The young hatch after 22–27 days and fledge after 21–24 days. If the parents are disturbed and flush from the nest frequently the incubation period could be extended to as long as 34 days.
When hatched, the chicks are downy. Neither altricial nor precocial, the chicks begin to move around and explore their surroundings within one to three days after hatching. Usually they do not stray far from the nest. Chicks are brooded by the adults for the first ten days after hatching. Both parents care for hatchlings. Chick diets always include fish, and parents selectively bring larger prey items to chicks than they eat themselves. Males bring more food than females. Feeding by the parents lasts for roughly a month before being weaned off slowly. After fledging, the juveniles learn to feed themselves, including the difficult method of plunge-diving. They will fly south to winter with the help of their parents. National Geographic calculated that during the lifespan of 30 years, an Arctic Tern would have migrated over 2.4 Million Kilometers, the equivalent of traveling from Earth to the Moon over 3 times.
Arctic terns are long-lived birds that spend considerable time raising only a few young, and are thus said to be K-selected. The bird has life span that was thought be around 20 years, however National Geographic, The University of Alberta & Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concluded in 2010 that more than 50% of the species will live past their 30th birthday. A study in the Farne Islands estimated an annual survival rate of 82%.
Ecology and behaviour
The diet of the Arctic tern varies depending on location and time, but is usually carnivorous. In most cases, it eats small fish or marine crustaceans. Fish species comprise the most important part of the diet, and account for more of the biomass consumed than any other food. Prey species are immature (1–2-year old) shoaling species such as herring, cod, sandlances, and capelin. Among the marine crustaceans eaten are amphipods, crabs and krill. Sometimes, these birds also eat molluscs, marine worms, or berries, and on their northern breeding grounds, insects.
Arctic terns sometimes dip down to the surface of the water to catch prey close to the surface. They may also chase insects in the air when breeding. It is also thought that Arctic terns may, in spite of their small size, occasionally engage in kleptoparasitism by swooping at birds so as to startle them into releasing their catches. Several species are targeted—conspecifics, other terns (like the common tern), and some auk and grebe species.
While nesting, Arctic terns are vulnerable to predation by cats and other animals. Besides being a competitor for nesting sites, the larger herring gull steals eggs and hatchlings. Camouflaged eggs help prevent this, as do isolated nesting sites. While feeding, skuas, gulls, and other tern species will often harass the birds and steal their food. They often form mixed colonies with other terns, such as common and Sandwich terns.
Arctic terns are considered threatened or a species of concern in certain states. They are also among the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds applies. The species reduced population in New England in the late nineteenth-century because of hunting for the millinery trade. Exploitation continues today in western Greenland, where the population of the species has been reduced greatly since 1950.
At the southern part of their range, the Arctic tern has been reducing in numbers. Much of this is due to lack of food. However, most of these birds' range is extremely remote, with no apparent trend in the species as a whole.
Birdlife International has considered the species to be at lower risk since 1988, believing that there are approximately one million individuals around the world.
The Arctic tern has appeared on the postage stamps of several countries and dependent territories. The territories include the Åland Islands, Alderney, and Faroe Islands. Countries include Canada, Finland, Iceland, and Cuba.
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- "Arctic Tern — BirdLife Species Factsheet". Birdlife International. Retrieved 17 August 2006.
- "Arctic terns' flying feat". Reuters. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2010.
- Fijn, R.C.; Hiemstra, D.; Phillips, R.A.; van der Winden, J. (2013). "Arctic Terns Sterna paradisaea from the Netherlands migrate record distances across three oceans to Wilkes Land, East Antarctica". ARDEA 101: 3–12. doi:10.5253/078.101.0102.
- "Arctic Tern". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
- "Arctic tern". Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Retrieved 17 August 2006.
- Cramp, S., ed. (1985). Birds of the Western Palearctic. Oxford University Press. pp. 87–100. ISBN 0-19-857507-6.
- Heavisides, A.; Hodgson, M.S.; Kerr, I. (1983). Birds in Northumbria 1982. Tyneside Bird Club.
- "Birds of Nova Scotia: Arctic Tern". Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2006.
- "Dutch Arctic Terns migrating to Antarctica via Australia". BirdGuides.com (with map).
- Del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jordi, eds. (1996). Handbook of the Birds of the World. vol. 3. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. p. 653. ISBN 84-87334-20-2.
- Howell, Steve N.G.; Jaramillo, Alvaro (2006). Alderfer, Jonathan, ed. National Geographic Complete Birds of North America. National Geographic Society. pp. 272–273. ISBN 0-7922-4175-4.
- Hatch, J.J. (2002). Poole, A.; Gill, F., eds. Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea). The Birds of North America (Philadelphia, PA.: The Birds of North America). p. 707.
- Olson, Klaus Malling; Larsson, Hans (1995). Terns of Europe and North America. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-7136-4056-1.
- Bridge, E.S.; Jones, A.W.; Baker, A.J. (2005). "A phylogenetic framework for the terns (Sternini) inferred from mtDNA sequences: implications for taxonomy and plumage evolution". Molecular phylogenetics and Evolution 35 (2): 459–469. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.12.010. PMID 15804415. Archived from the original on 20 July 2006. Retrieved 7 September 2006.
- Kaufman, Kenn (1990). "chapter 18". Peterson Field Guides: Advanced Birding. p. 135. ISBN 0-395-53517-4.
- Hawksley, Oscar (1957). "Ecology of a breeding population of Arctic Terns". Bird-Banding 28 (2): 57–92. doi:10.2307/4510623. Retrieved 1 September 2006.
- Perrins (2003), p. 267
- Perrins (2003), p. 268
- Kaufman, Kenn (1996). Lives of North American birds. Houghton Mifflin. p. 260. ISBN 0-395-77017-3.
- Klaassen, M.; Bech, C.; Masman, D.; Slagsvold, G. (1989). "Growth and energetics of Arctic tern chicks (Sterna paradisaea)". Auk 106: 240–248. Retrieved 1 September 2006.
- Perrins (2003), p. 269
- National Audubon Society. "Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)". Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 1 September 2006.
- Schreiber, Elizabeth A.; Burger, Joanne, eds. (2001). Biology of Marine Birds. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-9882-7.
- Cullen, J.M. (1957). "Plumage, age and mortality in the Arctic Tern". Bird Study 4 (4): 197–207. doi:10.1080/00063655709475891.
- Perrins (2003), p. 271
- AEWA. "African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement Annex II: Species list". Retrieved 17 August 2006.
- Hansen, K. (2001). "Threats to wildlife in Greenland". Seabird Group Newsletter 89: 1–2.
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- Perrins, Christopher, ed. (2003). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Buffalo, N.Y.: Firefly Books. ISBN 978-1-55297-777-4. OCLC 51922852.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Monotypic; no subspecies are recognized. Protein electrophoresis and phenetic evidence suggest that this species is most closely related to the common tern (Sterna hirundo) and Antarctic tern (S. vittata); a few reports of hybridization with common, roseate (S. dougallii) and Forster's terns (S. forsteri) exist (Hatch 2002).