The Physics
Factbook
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Distance of the Farthest Animal Migration

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
"Arctic Tern." Book of North American Birds. 2nd Edition. United States: Readers Digest, 1990. "Some birds travel up to 22,000 miles on each round trip." 35,000 km
(round trip)
"Bird." World Book Encyclopedia. London: Fetzer, 1997. "Arctic terns are the champions of long distance migration. They fly about 11,000 miles from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to their winter home in Antarctica." 18,000 km
(one way)
Weidensaul, Scott. Living on the Wind.New York: North Point, 1999. "… or an arctic tern which will draw a 22,000 mile figure eight on the Atlantic Ocean." 35,000 km
(round trip)
Hay, John. Spirit of Survival. Canada: Clarke Irwin, 1974. "An arctic tern that nests in north-central Canada and then travels over to Europe, thence south to the Antarctic, makes a journey of some 12,000 miles by the time it reaches its destination." 19,000 km
(one way)
Bird Migration Facts. Wild Wings: Heading North. National Audubon Society. "The longest migration of any known animal is that of the arctic tern, which travels 10,000 miles from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again each year!" 16,000 km
(one way)

Terns are among the most common water birds of ocean and coastal zones. Species live inland on every continent and in all major bodies of water. The common tern lives in all parts of the Northern Hemisphere as well as in South America and Africa. Terns are generally smaller than their counterparts, Gulls. They vary from 23 to 58 centimeters in length (9 to 23 inches), have a slim streamlined body with a long forked tail, and carry their bills pointed downward. Terns are white to gray with white underparts. Terns can hover over the water and plunge for their food, however in most cases they will not rest or swim in the water. Surprisingly, they are scavengers and will eat live or dead fish as well as any other fresh or rotting food found in or near the water. They are sociable birds and nest in colonies of thousands.

The arctic tern is not easily distinguished from the common tern except for one small detail. Migration for any tern is usually a long one. Many fly across the Atlantic, others from northern to southern continents. Arctic Terns in particular will travel the farthest distance of any tern and of any known animal. Its summer home is in the upper parts of the North Atlantic and the Arctic and the winter home is the Antarctic. Each leg of its annual journey is approximately 11,000 miles, one way!

Ilene Rebecca Schneider -- 2000