Terns may be the longest migrating birds on the planet, with some birds
summering in the Arctic, and wintering in the Antarctic. They breed
throughout the Arctic and as far south as northern New England, but are only
very rare stragglers inland, including South Dakota. There are only a
pair of records at this time, both since 1999 at Oahe Dam near Pierre.
Habitat: Arctic Terns nest on coastal tundra,
rocky beaches, and islands along the coast, as well as near inland water
bodies in the Arctic. During migration and winter, they are primarily
pelagic birds, most often found over cold water well offshore.
Diet: A variety of items, including many small
fish, crustaceans, marine worms, mollusks, and insects.
Behavior: Primarily feeds while in slow flight,
plunging into the water when prey items are spotted. They are also
capable of catching insects in mid-air, and will sometimes dip to the
water's surface to scoop up prey on the wing.
Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota.
Song: A wide variety of high-pitched, harsh calls,
similar to Common Terns but typically higher in pitch.
Migration: Summers throughout the Arctic, and
along coastlines as far south as northern New England in North America.
In migration, primarily migrates well offshore, spending migration and
winter months on the open ocean. Very seldom seen from land in North
America except on its breeding grounds.
Conservation Status: Most of its breeding grounds are minimally
affected by human activity, and overall there appears to be no population
trend. However, they are declining as a breeding species in some
southern parts of their breeding range, including in North America.
Cornell University's "All About Birds" - Arctic Tern
eNature.com - Arctic Tern
Photo Information: June 25th, 2006 - Near
Anchorage, Alaska - Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Arctic Tern photos.