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Arctic Tern

About Arctic Tern

Round-headed, long winged tern with long, whippy tail streamers. Medium gray above, with paler underparts; crown and nape black; underwing has narrow black band on trailing edge. Legs and bill are deep red.

These little birds form large breeding colonies, sometimes with other seabirds. Their nests are a shallow scrape made by the female, on the ground or moss. Some are lined with plant material, small rocks or shells, some are not lined. The female will lay 1-3 blue-white, green, buff, cream or deep brown eggs that are speckled, blotched, and scribbled with dark brown, black or olive. Both parents incubate the eggs.

They are unlike their relatives the gulls; terns are smaller and more delicate. The Arctic tern is a sea tern and it hunts by hovering above the waves and going down toward the water to catch the small fish. The tern is hesitant as it often swoops down for the prey in small steps and watchs often to make sure the prey is still there, finally it dives into the water and catches the fish in its bill. It mainly breeds in the Artic region, but will also breed on boulder shores and bleak moorlands of Ireland, Scotland, the Faroe Islands, and around the North Sea and Baltic.

They sometimes breed in large colonies defending their nest against predators and other intruders by diving at them and hitting them with their sharp bill.

When they are not breeding they feed entirely at sea, resting on ice floes and other floating objects. In the fall, it makes the longest migration known for any bird, flying south for some 10,000 miles to spend the northern winter months at the edge of Antarctica.