Alberta, Canada
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Arctic Tern
Sterna paradisaea
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General Description

By Gustave J. Yaki

Arctic Terns breeds in the Arctic and Subarctic regions around the Northern Hemisphere, although breeding was reported in Montana a few years ago. In Alberta, it was suspected of breeding on Richardson Lake near Lake Athabasca in 1975.

The Arctic Tern, which sees more daylight than any other species, is a rare transient in Alberta. Most sightings have been reported from points north of Edmonton. However, four birds were found patrolling a section of the Bow River in Carburn Park in Calgary late in the day on 18 May 2002 and were again observed at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary the next morning. Dates of observations are from the last week of May to mid June and from August to the first week of September.

When nesting, the diet includes fish and insects. Once at sea, Arctic Terns feed mainly on marine crustacea and small fish gleaned from the ocean surface.

Nesting takes place in large, loose colonies, occasionally as single pairs. This is often associated with other terns and gulls. The nest, preferably on an island, may also be on a beach or dune, or in marshes and occasionally on the open tundra. It is often just a hollow, but sometimes is lined with vegetation, shells or pebbles. The usual two eggs are incubated for about 21 days. The young can swim at two days and fly at 21 days, but are fed for awhile longer before they become self-sufficient.

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Where to find Arctic Terns in Alberta   

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