email a friend
printable version
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea

IUCN Red List history

Year Category
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) 10,300,000
Extent of Occurrence non-breeding (km2) 52,200,000
Number of locations -
Fragmentation -

Population & trend

  Estimate Data quality Derivation Year of estimate
No. of mature individuals poor Estimated 2009
Population trend Decreasing -
Number of subpopulations - - -
Largest subpopulation - - -
Generation length (yrs) 13.4 - - -
Population justification: The global population is estimated to number > c.2,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while 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, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Country/Territory distribution

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

Important Bird Areas where this species has triggered the IBA criteria

Country/Territory IBA Name IBA link
Denmark Northwestern Kattegat site factsheet
Denmark Roskilde Fjord, Selsø and Kattinge Søerne site factsheet
Denmark Smålandsfarvandet site factsheet
Denmark Sydfynske Ø-hav site factsheet
Estonia Kahtla-Kübassaare site factsheet
Estonia Kolga bay site factsheet
Estonia Lahemaa site factsheet
Estonia Pärnu bay (NEW) site factsheet
Estonia Siiksaare-Oessaare bays site factsheet
Estonia Väinameri site factsheet
Estonia Vaindloo island site factsheet
Finland Itäinen Suomenlahti National Park site factsheet
Finland Merenkurkku archipelago site factsheet
Finland Rauma and Luvia archipelagos site factsheet
France Cap Gris-nez site factsheet
Greenland (to Denmark) Kitsissunnguit (Grønne Ejland) site factsheet
Iceland Hrísey site factsheet
Ireland Connemara Islands site factsheet
Latvia Randu meadows site factsheet
Netherlands Griend site factsheet
Netherlands Lauwersmeer site factsheet
Netherlands Rottumeroog site factsheet
Netherlands Rottumerplaat site factsheet
Netherlands Texel: Schorren and Zeeburg site factsheet
Russia (Central Asian) Basins of the Schuchya and Khadytayakha rivers site factsheet
Russia (Central Asian) Lower Yuribey site factsheet
Russia (Central Asian) Upper and Middle Yuribey site factsheet
Russia (Central Asian) Valley of headwaters of the river Schuchya site factsheet
Russia (European) Onega Bay of the White Sea site factsheet
Russia (European) Solovetski Archipelago and Zjizjginski island site factsheet
Sweden Outer Stockholm archipelago site factsheet
Sweden The Archipelago of Nothern Hälsingland site factsheet
United Kingdom Copeland Islands site factsheet
United Kingdom Coquet Island site factsheet
United Kingdom Fair Isle site factsheet
United Kingdom Farne Islands site factsheet
United Kingdom Foula site factsheet
United Kingdom Northumbria Coast site factsheet
United Kingdom Papa Stour site factsheet
United Kingdom Papa Westray (North Hill and Holm) site factsheet
United Kingdom Rousay site factsheet
United Kingdom Sleibhtean Agus Chladach Thiriodh site factsheet
United Kingdom Solent Marshes and Southampton Water site factsheet
United Kingdom Strangford Lough and islands site factsheet
United Kingdom Uists Machairs, Lochs and Coast site factsheet
United Kingdom West Westray site factsheet
United Kingdom Ynys Feurig, Cemlyn Bay and the Skerries site factsheet
USA Beaufort Sea Nearshore site factsheet
USA Prince William Sound site factsheet

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 breeding
Marine Neritic Macroalgal/Kelp major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Pelagic suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Pelagic suitable non-breeding
Marine Neritic Seagrass (Submerged) major breeding
Marine Neritic Seagrass (Submerged) major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel major breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs major breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy major breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy major non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy-Mud major breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy-Mud major non-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
Climate change & severe weather Habitat shifting & alteration Timing Scope Severity Impact
Future Whole (>90%) Unknown Unknown
Indirect ecosystem effects, Ecosystem degradation


Purpose Primary form used Life stage used Source Scale Level Timing
Pets Whole Adults and juveniles Wild International Non-trivial Recent

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Sterna paradisaea. Downloaded from on 12/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 12/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Laridae (Gulls and terns)
Species name author Pontoppidan, 1763
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 10,300,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Summary information on this species