The Arctic tern spends northern summers in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America and then migrates to the Antarctic coast for the southern summer, returning 6 months later. Wow! They master land, air and water. Impressive! And they are feisty characters, with no apparent fear, inclined to attack anyone who goes near their nests. Altogether an amazing bird!
In this post I will also cover Common terns and Sandwich terns which are impressive though not so much as their globe-traversing cousin. All three species are 'Amber listed' so not of the highest 'Red Listed' concern but with worrying questions over their conservation status. All three species breed on the Farne Islands.
Common terns have a circumpolar distribution, breeding in temperate and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America. They are strongly migratory, wintering in coastal tropical and subtropical regions. There are not so many Common terns on Staple Island which seems to be dominated by the Arctic terns but it is good to see them side by side to help identify them on future occasions.
Sandwich terns breed in the Palearctic from Europe to the Caspian Sea wintering in South Africa, India and Sri Lanka. They seem to be more colonial in their choice of breeding sites than the Arctic and Common terns.
I really admire terns. The trans-global migration of the Arctic tern is almost incredible. Thirty return journeys in a lifetime would be 750,000 miles or 1,350,000 km. I'm not sure that any whales manage Arctic to Antarctic migration - please correct me if I'm wrong. Add the sassy characters of the Arctic terns and their elegant mastery of the three elements and the word 'extraordinary' is truly an understatement - awe-inspiring? Yes, certainly awe-inspiring.