Fast Fact #7: The Far Traveling Arctic Tern

Arctic Terns have the longest (in distance) yearly migration of any animal in the world.

They travel from the Arctic, where they breed, all the way to Antarctica and back. Literally from one end of the world to the other!

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

They cover a distance of a minimum of 44,000 miles (that’s 71 000 km) every single year! Arctic Terns often return to the same area they were hatched to breed. Their offspring stay with the parents for about three months before they venture off on their own.

The award for the longest migratory bird is fiercely competed by the Sooty Shearwater who, thanks to electronic tagging it was recently revealed, travel nearly 40,000 miles every year moving between New Zealand and the North Pacific.

Sooty Shearwater on BirdingPlanet.com

Sooty Shearwater

For a brief period it was actually thought that the Shearwater traveled further than the Tern, but a recent study led by Carsten Egevang of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, was able to nail down the difference in distance covered by the two birds to just 4 000 miles.

Because the Actic Terns generally live for over 30 years, the researchers estimate that, in its lifetime, the birds would migrate about 1.5 million miles (2.4 million kilometers) — equal to three trips to the moon and back. Astonishing!

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