Latin/Scientific name: Sterna paradisaea
Name in Irish: Geabhróg artach
Other names: Sea Swallow
Status: Summer visitor from March to September to all Irish coasts. Winters off south Africa and as far south as Antarctica.
Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland due to its localised breeding population. The European population is regarded as Secure.
Identification: Usually seen over the sea. Slender seabird with narrow, pointed wings, long forked tail and long, pointed bill. Grey above and white below, dark cap to head. Flight light and buoyant, can hover briefly over the sea before diving in. Very similar to Common Tern (with which it breeds) and told apart by plumage and structure. Arctic Tern is smaller, with a smaller head, neck and bill and slightly narrower wings, which look forwardly placed on the body. Very short legs. Adults have a blood red bill, usually with no dark tip. The underparts are greyer than Common Tern and there some contrast with the cheek. The wing pattern is useful in separation, Arctic terns shows no dark wedge in the primaries but shows a distinct trailing edge. Arctic terns have longer tail steamers, extending beyond the wing tips. Adult winter plumage, like all terns is different from breeding plumage, but is only seen in the wintering range. Also has distinctive juvenile plumage, with some brown in the mantle, a dark carpel bar and white secondaries. Shows a distinct trailing bar to the primaries, bill darkens rapidly.
Similar Species: Common and Roseate Tern.
Call: Similar to Common Tern.
Diet: Marine fish, crustaceans and insects.
Breeding: Mainly a coastal breeding bird, but in Ireland the species also breeds inland on the fresh water lakes of Lough Corrib (Co. Galway) and Lough Conn (Co. Mayo). More colonies are found on the west coast with Co. Wexford, Co. Kerry, Co. Mayo and Co. Donegal having the largest number of birds.
Wintering: Considered to have the longest migration of all birds, utilizing the summer of both hemispheres.
Where to See: Lady's Island Lake, near Rosslare, in County Wexford has up to 300 pairs. As well as other tern species.
Monitored by: All-Ireland tern survey in 1995, and through breeding seabird surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002. Arctic Terns are also monitored annually at Rockabill and Lady's Island Lake.