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Arctic Terns

"The award for farthest traveler goes to the Arctic Tern. These birds migrate from pole to pole, breeding as far north as the Arctic tundra, and over-wintering as far south as Antarctica. These terns are known to live up to 34 years in the wild, and travel about 25,000 miles each year, claiming the longest migration of any species," Valdez Parks & Recreation

Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea) can be found in Valdez along shore areas, such as the boat harbor, the Kelsey Municipal Dock or the Duck Flats. They may also be spotted along lakes, rivers, and glacial moraines. They migrate here in the spring-time all the way from Antarctica where they spend the winter. They return to their breeding grounds in Alaska each year to mate, make their nests, and raise the next generation. Because the spend the winter in Antarctica and the summer in Alaska, these birds are believed to see more sunlight in a year than any other animal. 

You may see terns plunging down over the water, diving to catch small fish. The terns will consume the fish themselves or feed them to their young. A male Arctic Tern may also carry a fish in his bill while swooping over the ground (known as a "fish flight") in order to attract a female. The female may choose to join the male in the fish flight. 

two Arctic Terns in a courtship flight

Arctic Terns. "A Tern Couple", photo by Gary Minish

Safety Information

"Arctic terns are very aggressive, especially on their breeding grounds. They will attack and mob intruders, crying loudly and raucously and diving continually at the invader's head," Alaska Department of Fish & Game

Arctic terns make their nests on the shore areas around Valdez. The nests may be almost impossible to see: a simple depression in the ground with lightly colored speckled eggs. But don't worry, before you get close, the Arctic terns will let you know that you're intruding! Both the male and female will guard the nest, making noise to warn intruders, and diving at those who persist. If you notice this behavior from Arctic terns while at the beach, please give them space. 

Viewing Locations

Terns Fact Sheet

From Alaska Department of Fish & Game

 

Photo Gallery


Arctic Terns


Tern Into the Harbor

Arctic Terns can be seen in Valdez along the shore, especially in the harbor areas. Photo by Gary Minish


Arctic Terns


Fishing Tern

Arctic Terns often prey on small fish. Photo by Gary Minish


Arctic Terns


A Tern Couple

Photo by Gary Minish.


Arctic Terns


Touring Tern

Photo by Gary Minish


Arctic Terns


Tern Takeout

Photo by Gary Minish

Valdez Highlights