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Arctic Terns in Ireland

Arctic Tern in flight

The arctic tern is a Summer visitor to Irish coasts and offshore islands. This attractive tern begins to arrive in March and depart Irish shores in September heading or South Africa and as far as the Antarctic.Arctic terns undertake the longest migrations known in the animal kingdom.

The arctic tern is a slender seabird with narrow, pointed wings, a long forked tail and a long, pointed bill. Similar to the common tern they have grey plumage with a black cap, a red bill, and red legs.

Although the average life span for a arctic tern is 13 years the longest lived arctic tern was recorded at 31 years.

Irish Name for Arctic Tern

The Irish phrase for arctic tern is Geabhróg Artach.

Arctic Tern Feeding

Arctic tern's diet varies depending on location and time, but is usually carnivorous. In most cases, it eats small fish or marine crustaceans. In Irish waters they feed on herring and cod, amongst other fish.

They dip down to the surface of the water to catch prey close to the surface. Arctic terns may also pick off insects in the air when breeding. They are also known to harass other birds so as to startle them into releasing their catches

Arctic Terns Nesting

Arctic Tern eggs

Arctic terns are ground-nesting and that makes them and their nests vulnerable to predation by cats and other animals. If their eggs or young come under threat these terns will aggressively attack any perceived threat. They often form mixed colonies with other terns, such as common and Sandwich terns.

In Ireland arctic terns are a coastal breeding bird, but will also breeds inland on the fresh water lakes of Lough Corrib in County Galway and on Lough Conn in County Mayo. Some of the largest Irish arctic tern colonies can be found found in Counties Wexford, Kerry, Mayo, and Donegal.

Long Distance Travellers

Arctic terns are renowned for their long-distance migrations. One tern, ringed as a chick on the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland, England in June 1982, turned up in Melbourne, Australia in October of the same year. As they travel over open seas (not overland) it is estimated this involved a flight of more than 20,000 Km. Most arctic terns return to the same area, even the same colony, where they were hatched to breed.

Arctic tern on land

Mute Swan

Scientific Name: Sterna paradisaea



Irish Status:
Summer visitor

Length: 34cm Wingspan: 80cm Weight: M: 110g

Call: : Calls a short kip and a harsh kee-err.

Habitat: Coastal, tundra, lakes, and rivers. In winter pelagic.

Diet: Fish, crustaceans and insects.

Breeding Age:
From 4 years
Number of Eggs:
1 - 3
No. of Clutches:
Incubation (days):
Fledging (days):
13 years. Record is 31 years.

Conservation Status in Ireland: AMBER

Arctic Tern Range in Ireland

The arctic tern is a Summer visitor to all coasts of Ireland.

Map of the range of Arctic Terns in Ireland.

Arctic Terns in Ireland - Blue Tits in Ireland - Coal Tits in Ireland - Goldfinches in Ireland - Great Tits in Ireland - Grey Herons in Ireland - Jackdaws in Ireland - Longtailed Tits in Ireland - Magpies in Ireland - Mallards in Ireland - Mistle Thrushes in Ireland - Mute Swans in Ireland - Pheasants in Ireland - Puffins in Ireland - Robins in Ireland - Rooks in Ireland - Song Thrushes in Ireland - Starlings in Ireland - Swallows in Ireland - Swans in Tallaght - Swans Oil-Damaged - Waxwings in Ireland - Woodpigeons in Ireland - Wrens in Ireland

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