Dutch Arctic tern’s Antarctic world record

This video about Arctic terns is called Migration Google Earth Tour Video.

Translated from Vroege Vogels TV in the Netherlands:

An Arctic Tern from Eemshaven has massively broken a world record: the bird, weighing hardly 100g, during a year has flown 90 thousand kilometers during a return journey to the Antarctic. This is an absolute world record in long distance migration. The record is described in an article in Ardea, the international scientific journal of the Dutch Ornithological Union.


The study was conducted by attaching tiny ‘dataloggers‘, geolocators, to seven birds. This device of just 2 grams stores information about light and dark in combination with time. These two data make it possible to to retrieve the birds’ position on earth with a precision of about 100 km. All birds returned in 2012 and could be caught. Five dataloggers were still working and revealed a startling flyway.


The terns were, on average, 273 ± 7 days on the road. They all flew to the same spot in the North Atlantic where the terns of Greenland stayed two weeks later. Like these terns the Dutch terns flew (albeit earlier) then to an area west of Namibia.

Dutch Arctic tern migration, credit BirdLife in the Netherlands

After that the birds of Dutch nesting colonies followed a different route. They flew first across the Indian Ocean to a previously unknown stopping place between 20-40° N and 65-100° E (near Amsterdam Island). From this stop they then went on to sea areas south of Australia. Some flew from here south to the Antarctic, but one bird flew to New Zealand and then deflected to Antarctica.

Record distance

During the southern summer they flew westward along the coast of Antarctica, where they stayed in the sea area between 35-150° E. In March they went back to the north with a stopover in the North Atlantic. The distance of the terns averaged around 90,000 km, a record distance. If the distances of stopping while underway and in the wintering area are not counted, then the flyway was on average 48,700 km.

See also here.

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