Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea


Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Christidis, L. and Boles, W.E. 2008. Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. (eds). 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
SACC. 2005 and updates. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #
Turbott, E.G. 1990. Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

IUCN Red List criteria met and history
Red List criteria met
Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable
- - -

Red List history
Year Category Criteria
2018 Least Concern
2016 Least Concern
2012 Least Concern
2010 Least Concern
2009 Least Concern
2008 Least Concern
2004 Least Concern
2000 Lower Risk/Least Concern
1994 Lower Risk/Least Concern
1988 Lower Risk/Least Concern
Species attributes

Migratory status full migrant Forest dependency does not normally occur in forest
Land-mass type Average mass -

Estimate Data quality
Extent of Occurrence breeding/resident (km2) 64,800,000
Extent of Occurrence non-breeding (km2) 126,000,000
Severely fragmented? no -
Population and trend
Value Data quality Derivation Year of estimate
Number of mature individuals poor estimated 2012
Population trend decreasing suspected -
Generation length (years) 13.4 - - -

Population justification: The global population is estimated to number >2,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 564,000-906,000 pairs, which equates to 1,130,000-1,810,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). The population in Russia has been estimated at c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification: The overall population trend is decreasing (Wetlands International 2015). In Europe, the population size is estimated to be decreasing by less than 25% in 40.2 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).

Country/territory distribution
Country/Territory Presence Origin Resident Breeding Non-breeding Passage
Algeria extant vagrant
Angola extant native
Antarctica extant native yes
Argentina extant native
Australia extant native
Austria extant native yes
Belarus extant vagrant
Belgium extant native yes
Benin extant native
Bermuda (to UK) extant native
Bolivia extant native
Bouvet Island (to Norway) extant uncertain
Brazil extant native
British Indian Ocean Territory extant native
Bulgaria extant vagrant
Cameroon extant native
Canada extant native yes yes
Cape Verde extant native
Central African Republic extant vagrant
Chile extant native
Colombia extant native
Congo extant native
Congo, The Democratic Republic of the extant vagrant
Costa Rica extant native yes
Côte d'Ivoire extant native
Croatia extant vagrant
Cuba extant native
Cyprus extant vagrant
Czechia extant vagrant
Denmark extant native yes yes
Ecuador extant native
Egypt extant vagrant
Equatorial Guinea extant native
Estonia extant native yes
Falkland Islands (Malvinas) extant native
Faroe Islands (to Denmark) extant native yes
Finland extant native yes yes
France extant native yes yes
French Southern Territories extant vagrant
Gabon extant native
Gambia extant native
Germany extant native yes yes
Ghana extant native
Gibraltar (to UK) extant vagrant
Greece extant native
Greenland (to Denmark) extant native yes
Guadeloupe (to France) extant vagrant yes
Guatemala extant uncertain
Guinea extant native
Guinea-Bissau extant native
Heard Island and McDonald Islands (to Australia) extant uncertain
Hungary extant vagrant
Iceland extant native yes
India extant vagrant
Indonesia extant vagrant
Ireland extant native yes yes
Israel extant vagrant
Italy extant vagrant
Japan extant native
Jordan extant vagrant
Kuwait extant vagrant yes
Latvia extant native yes
Lesotho extant vagrant
Liberia extant native
Libya extant vagrant
Lithuania extant native yes
Luxembourg extant vagrant
Marshall Islands extant vagrant
Mauritania extant native
Mexico extant native
Montenegro extant vagrant
Morocco extant native
Mozambique extant vagrant
Namibia extant native
Netherlands extant native yes
New Zealand extant native
Nigeria extant native
Norway extant native yes
Oman extant vagrant yes
Panama extant vagrant yes
Paraguay extant native
Peru extant native
Poland extant native yes yes
Portugal extant native
Puerto Rico (to USA) extant native
Russia extant native yes
Russia (Asian) extant native yes
Russia (Central Asian) extant native yes
Russia (European) extant native yes
Senegal extant vagrant
Serbia extant vagrant
Sierra Leone extant native
Slovakia extant vagrant
Somalia extant native
South Africa extant native
South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands extant native
Spain extant native yes
St Helena (to UK) extant vagrant
St Pierre and Miquelon (to France) extant native yes yes
Sudan extant vagrant yes
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) extant native yes
Sweden extant native yes yes
Switzerland extant vagrant
Togo extant native
Türkiye extant vagrant
Ukraine extant vagrant
United Arab Emirates extant vagrant yes
United Kingdom extant native yes
Uruguay extant vagrant
USA extant native yes
Virgin Islands (to USA) extant vagrant

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA)
Country/Territory IBA Name
Greenland (to Denmark) Kitsissunnguit (Grønne Ejland)
Ireland Connemara Islands
Ireland Inishkeeragh and Illancrone
Sweden Archipelago of Stockholm
Finland Rauma and Luvia archipelagos
Finland Itäinen Suomenlahti National Park
Finland Merenkurkku archipelago
France Cap Gris-nez
Denmark Roskilde Fjord, Selsø and Kattinge Søerne
Denmark Islands and coast between Skælskør Fjord and Glænø
Denmark South Læsø
Denmark Sydfynske Ø-hav
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) Northwest Spitsbergen National Park
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) Forlandet National Park
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) Nordenskiöldkysten
Germany Altmühl valley between Treuchtlingen and Leutershausen with Altmühlsee
Germany Wagbach lowlands
Germany Elbe marshes between Stade and Otterndorf
Germany Heerter See
Russia (European) Onega Bay of the White Sea
Estonia Kolga bay
Estonia Pärnu bay (NEW)
Estonia Vaindloo island
Estonia Siiksaare-Oessaare bays
Estonia Kahtla-Kübassaare
Estonia Lahemaa
Estonia Väinameri
Russia (Central Asian) Valley of headwaters of the river Schuchya
Latvia Randu meadows
United Kingdom Farne Islands
United Kingdom Foula
Russia (Central Asian) Lower Yuribey
Russia (Central Asian) Upper and Middle Yuribey
Russia (Central Asian) Basins of the Schuchya and Khadytayakha rivers
United Kingdom Fair Isle
United Kingdom Papa Stour
United Kingdom Papa Westray (North Hill and Holm)
United Kingdom Strangford Lough and islands
United Kingdom Ynys Feurig, Cemlyn Bay and the Skerries
United Kingdom Sleibhtean Agus Chladach Thiriodh
United Kingdom Northumbria Coast
United Kingdom Copeland Islands
United Kingdom Solent Marshes and Southampton Water
United Kingdom Uists Machairs, Lochs and Coast
United Kingdom West Westray
Sweden Holmöarna Archipelago
Sweden Lövsta Bight – Björn Archipelago
Sweden Archipelago of Nothern Hälsingland
Sweden Archipelago of Östergötland
Russia (European) Solovetski Archipelago and Zjizjginski island
United Kingdom Coquet Island
United Kingdom Rousay
Germany Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park
Germany Wismar bay and Salzhaff
Germany Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park (includes the Halligs, Kniepsand/Amrum, Lister Koog, Rantumbecken, Rickelsb
Ireland Lady's Island Lake
Ireland Rockabill
Ireland Magharee Islands, Mucklaghmore and Illaunbarnagh
Ireland Inishbofin, Inisdooey and Inisbeg
Ireland Inishkea Islands
USA Beaufort Sea Nearshore
USA Barrow Canyon & Smith Bay
USA Prince William Sound
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) Bjørnøya (Bear Island)
Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands (to Norway) Northeast Svalbard Nature Reserve
Iceland Hrisey
Netherlands Duinen en Lage Land Texel
Netherlands Duinen Terschelling
Netherlands Grevelingen
Netherlands Oosterschelde
Netherlands Wadden Sea
Russia (Asian) Meechkyn spit and adjacent plain
Russia (Asian) Utkholok river
Russia (Asian) Preobrazheniya island
Russia (Asian) Kolyma delta
Russia (Asian) Izvestiy Tsik islands
Russia (Asian) Gusikha river basin and lower Balakhnya river

Habitats & altitude
Habitat (level 1) Habitat (level 2) Importance Occurrence
Grassland Tundra suitable breeding
Marine Coastal/Supratidal Coastal Brackish/Saline Lagoons/Marine Lakes suitable breeding
Marine Intertidal Sandy Shoreline and/or Beaches, Sand Bars, Spits, Etc suitable breeding
Marine Intertidal Shingle and/or Pebble Shoreline and/or Beaches major breeding
Marine Neritic Macroalgal/Kelp major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Macroalgal/Kelp major breeding
Marine Neritic Pelagic suitable non-breeding
Marine Neritic Pelagic suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Seagrass (Submerged) major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Seagrass (Submerged) major breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel major breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs major breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy major breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy-Mud major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy-Mud major breeding
Wetlands (inland) Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands suitable breeding
Wetlands (inland) Permanent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha) suitable breeding
Wetlands (inland) Tundra Wetlands (incl. pools and temporary waters from snowmelt) suitable breeding
Altitude 0 - 100 m Occasional altitudinal limits  

Threats & impact
Threat (level 1) Threat (level 2) Impact and Stresses
Biological resource use Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest] Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Unknown Unknown
Indirect ecosystem effects, Reduced reproductive success
Biological resource use Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals - Intentional use (species is the target) Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Slow, Significant Declines Low Impact: 5
Reduced reproductive success, Species mortality
Climate change & severe weather Habitat shifting & alteration Timing Scope Severity Impact
Future Majority (50-90%) Unknown Unknown
Indirect ecosystem effects, Ecosystem degradation, Reduced reproductive success
Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - Neovison vison Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Rapid Declines Medium Impact: 6
Reduced reproductive success, Species mortality

Purpose Primary form used Life stage used Source Scale Level Timing
Pets/display animals, horticulture - - international non-trivial recent

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Sterna paradisaea. Downloaded from on 04/10/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 04/10/2023.