The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Day Three of Twelve Days of Arctic Animals: Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Scientific Name: Sterna paradisaea

Where Arctic Terns Live:

The Arctic Tern has a circumpolar range, spending breeding season in the Arctic and subarctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America. In non-breeding season, Arctic Terns travel to wintering grounds off of Antarctica.

Range Map

This six minute video explains the incredible journey and the surprising divergence in migration patterns that occur, as discovered by a group of scientists who endured frequent assaults to the backs of their heads in order to get this data.

What Arctic Terns Eat:

Arctic Terns eat small fish, which they catch by diving into the water or plucking them from the surface. They also eat small invertebrates, including crustaceans and insects.

This six second video shows the plunging technique used by Arctic Terns in fishing.

How Long Arctic Terns Live:

Up to 34 years.

Why Arctic Terns are Awesome:

Migration for Arctic Terns is a journey of up to 25,000 miles and is the farthest yearly journey of any bird. In the life of an Arctic Tern, this is the equivalent of traveling to the moon and back three times.

Why We Care about Arctic Terns:

Because of their close association with coasts and seas, Arctic Terns are vulnerable to rising sea levels and changing temperatures. While Arctic Terns have a large global population and much of their habitat is remote and relatively unspoiled, threats such as hunting, introduced species, oil development and drops in food supplies have reduced their numbers in portions of their range.

By studying their migratory pattern, scientists are obtaining information about where the most plentiful food resources are in the Atlantic Ocean.

Sidenote:  I felt a twinge of guilt as I watched the six minute video about the migration study because I had considered eliminating this species from this twelve day series.  We often focus on the physically larger, more visually charismatic animals for the wow factor. But I should know better.  “Who is going to miss a bird, when I could be writing about moose or wolverines today?”, I thought.  The Arctic Tern has reminded me of the main reason I love animals, which is that there is always something new to learn about them.  It was a good day for this biophiliac.


Arctic Tern, photo credit: Kirk Rogers

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This entry was posted on December 16, 2013 by in Arctic Animals, Birds, Uncategorized.
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