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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Arctic Tern

Hebrides bird sightings - Arctic Tern
Juvenile Arctic Tern on right

Arctic Tern

Sterna paradisaea

Gaelic: Steàrnag


Photograph © John Dempsey
Grenitote - North Uist - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
October 15th, 2006


Our Tern photographs

Arctic tern
Arctic tern
Common tern
Arctic tern

Arctic Tern


  • Arctic Tern
  • Sterna paradisaea
  • Gaelic: Steàrnan
  • UK: AMBER LIST. 553,000 pairs - summer BTO
  • WI: Common migrant breeder (1000 -10,000 pairs) and fairly common passage visitor (occurs in small numbers)
  • Breeds: Usually return to breed in area & colony, where they hatched to breed. UK - Europe, Arctic, North America
  • Winters: Antarctic oceans
  • Mostly grey & white. Red beak & feet. White forehead. Black nape & crown. White cheeks. Deeply forked whitish tail giving long "streamers"
  • Habitat: Tundra, Seacoast, lochs, rivers. Winter - sea
  • Diet: Fish, insects
  • Lives to 20yrs.
  • Listen to an Arctic Tern RSPB site
  • Similar birds: Common Tern, Little Tern


The birds winter far South in the Antarctic oceans. In late April, early May they begin to arrive back in the UK. Migration back South starts at the end of the breeding season in late July and August.

A chick ringed in Northumberland one June was in Australia, that October (12, 000 mile round trip).


Arctic Tern records in the Western Isles

Common migrant breeder (1000 -10,000 pairs) and fairly common passage visitor (occurs in small numbers)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Arctic Tern is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

John's Blog of his two week stay in the Uists

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