Natural Habitat Adventures

Know Before You Go

Tern Facts | Antarctica Wildlife Guide

Terns are closely related to gulls, and some experts consider the two groups as one family. But whereas gulls often soar in wind currents and up-draughts, terns fly in straighter, more level paths. The majority of terns are coastal seabirds, but two species, the Arctic tern and the Antarctic tern, migrate annually over open ocean.

The Arctic tern has the world’s longest migration route of any animal, flying 44,000 miles in a zigzagging formation from its breeding grounds in Greenland to Antarctica. The Antarctic tern, by contrast, travels far less, staying all year in ice-free waters in the Antarctic.

The Arctic and Antarctic terns are very similar, both in appearance and habits. Their diet consists primarily of fish, which they snatch from the water by swooping down after hovering at the surface. Terns can dive short distances for their prey if needed. They breed at opposite ends of the Earth at opposite seasons, so the Arctic species will be in winter plumage when it visits in the Antarctic summer.

Most terns nest in colonies, but the Antarctic tern often nests on its own or at best in loose and widely segregated breeding areas. The male and female take turns incubating the eggs, which are between one and three in number. After three weeks, the chicks hatch, and parents share the duties of feeding and caring for their young.

Nests are constructed by scraping an indention in loose pebbles. At 4 or 5 weeks old, the birds fledge, but parents will continue fishing for their young past this time. The eggs and young are well camouflaged against the gray pebbles, and a visitor can easily wander too close without realizing it. However, Antarctic terns will soon warn any potential trespasser by diving and scolding. If this happens, the visitor should retreat, whereupon the terns will resume sitting on their eggs or brooding their chicks.

Header Credit: Moira Le Patourel
See Terns on These Antarctic Expeditions
Repeater Layout : vertical-2up
Sailing Antarctica: A Polar Wildlife Expedition
New Itinerary!

Sailing Antarctica: A Polar Wildlife Expedition

Those with a passion for true adventure won't find a more exhilarating thrill than exploring Antarctica on an intimate journey by private motorsailer—kayak and camp on the ice, too!
17 Days / Dec–Feb
From $32595 (+air)
Limited to 7 Travelers
New Itinerary!
Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falklands
New Itinerary!

Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falklands

A comprehensive voyage to the wildlife-rich Falkland Islands and historic South Georgia, where a million-plus king penguins reign—plus the wonders of the Antarctic Peninsula!
24 Days / Nov–Mar
From $26410 (+air)
New Itinerary!
Know Before You Go

Get Weekly Updates

Our weekly eNewsletter highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more.
Privacy Policy
We're Proud of the Reputation We’ve Earned
Outside
Voted "World's Best Travel
Company"
by Outside Magazine
Outside
Natural Habitat Adventures Ranked
“Best Outfitter”
NatGeo
Voted Best Winter Trip: Natural Habitat Adventures' Monarch Butterfly Migration, Mexico
VIEW MORE AWARDS

Send Me Travel Emails

Get the Inside Scoop on the

World of Nature Travel

Our weekly eNewsletters highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more. Sign up today!

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Me Travel Emails
Privacy Policy
Thank you for joining our email list

Look for a special welcome message in your inbox, arriving shortly! Be sure to add naturalhabitat@nathab.com to your email contacts so you don’t miss out on future emails.

Request Your 2023 Catalog

Discover the World's Best

Nature Travel Experiences

Nathab 2023 Catalog

Together, Natural Habitat Adventures and World Wildlife Fund have teamed up to arrange nearly a hundred nature travel experiences around the planet, while helping to protect the spectacular places we visit and their wild inhabitants.

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Request Your 2023/2024 Catalog
Continued - Page 2 of 2
To help us customize your catalog request, please tell us more about your travel needs:
Thank you for requesting a catalog
We’ve received your request. If you have any questions about our trips, please feel free to contact an Adventure Specialist today by calling 800-543-8917.

Get Weekly Updatess

Discover the World's Best

Nature Travel Experiences

Our weekly eNewsletter highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more. Sign up today!

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Me Travel Emails
Privacy Policy
Thank you for joining our email list!

Look for a special welcome message in your inbox, arriving shortly! Be sure to add naturalhabitat@nathab.com to your email contacts so you don’t miss out on future emails.

Send Us a Message

Send Us a Message

Have a question or comment? Use the form to the right to get in touch with us.

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Us a Message
Thank you for your message

We’ll be in touch soon with a response.

Refer a Friend

Refer a Friend,
Get $250 Off
Earn rewards for referring your friends! We'd like to thank our loyal travelers for spreading the word. Share your friend's address so we can send a catalog, and if your friend takes a trip as a first-time Nat Hab traveler, you'll receive a $250 Nat Hab gift card you can use toward a future trip or the purchase of Nat Hab gear. To refer a friend, just complete the form below or call us at 800-543-8917. It's that easy! See rules and fine print here.
Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Refer a Friend

Earn rewards for referring your friends! We'd like to thank our loyal travelers for spreading the word. Share your friend's address so we can send a catalog, and if your friend takes a trip as a first-time Nat Hab traveler, you'll receive a $250 Nat Hab gift card you can use toward a future trip or the purchase of Nat Hab gear. To refer a friend, just complete the form below or call us at 800-543-8917. It's that easy! See rules and fine print here.

Thank you for the referral!

We've received your friend's information.

View Our 2023 Digital Catalog

View Our 2023/2024

Digital Catalog

Help us save paper! We offer a digital version of The World's Greatest Nature Journeys. If you'd prefer a mailed copy, please provide your contact details here. To view our digital catalog, please enter your info in the form to the right.
Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
View Digital Catalog
Happy browsing!

Thanks for requesting access to our digital catalog. Click here to view it now. You’ll also receive it by email momentarily.

Our Trips

Polar Bear Tours

Polar Bear Tours

African Safaris

African Safaris

U.S. National Parks Tours

U.S. National Parks Tours

Alaska Adventures

Alaska Adventures

Canada & the North

Canada & the North

Galapagos Tours

Galapagos Tours

Mexico & Central America Tours

Mexico & Central America Tours

South America Adventures

South America Adventures

Europe Adventures

Europe Adventures

Asia & Pacific Adventures

Asia & Pacific Adventures

Antarctica & Arctic Journeys

Antarctica & Arctic Journeys

Adventure Cruises

Adventure Cruises

Photography Adventures

Photography Adventures

Family Adventures

Family Adventures

New Adventures

New Adventures

Questions? Call 800-543-8917

Contact Us

Have a question or comment?
Click any of the buttons below to get in touch with us.

Hours
Mountain Time

  • 8 am to 5 pm, Monday - Friday
  • 8 am to 3 pm on Saturday
  • Closed on Sunday
Call 800-543-8917
Questions? Click to Chat
Questions? Click to Chat
/know-before-you-go/antarctica/wildlife-guide/terns/