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Arctic Tern

Sterna paradisaea

The Arctic Tern has a circumpolar breeding distribution covering the Arctic and sub-Arctic. It sees two summers each year, one on the Arctic and the other in the Antarctic. It was believed their migration traversed over 25,000 miles of the globe each year, but that figure assumed a linear path between their June (Arctic) and December (Antarctic) homes.

Recent studies with light-weight GPS recording sensors have shown scientists that the flight route followed by these birds is a meandering path that more than doubles the distance previously believed and includes lengthy layovers in places like the North Atlantic Ocean to feed. The course that the birds follow may be influenced by wind, which can be counter to their overall north-south migration.

This study revealed that the actual distance covered annually by the Arctic Tern is more like 44,000 miles. A typical lifespan is 30 years, meaning they travel 130,000 to 150,000 miles over the course of their lives.

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