6 Surprising Facts About Arctic Birds

Arctic birds feel right at home in an icy climate.

Learn more about the birds that feel right at home in the Arctic’s icy climate. Arctic birds, like snow buntings and arctic terns, have made some amazing adaptations to be able to withstand the polar cold.

  1. Arctic terns hold the record for the farthest migration. One trip from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to their winter territory in Antarctica is about 29,000 miles. That impressive zigzagging flight south is done at sea—they are rarely spotted from land.
  2. The common raven is one of the smartest birds on the planet. Thanks to that ingenuity, ravens survive in all kinds of habitats—from tundra to Texas heat.
  3. Two of the three ptarmigan species, rock and willow, live mainly in the Arctic. The third, white-tailed, also lives as far south as Colorado. (Psst! The “p” in ptarmigan is silent.)
  4. Fast-flying peregrine falcons are found on six continents.
  5. After studying the DNA of 77 redpolls, researchers found almost no genetic difference between common and hoary redpolls. This explains why the two are so difficult to tell apart.
  6. Male snow buntings head to their breeding grounds in the high Arctic in early April. The area is still covered in snow, and temperatures are as low as 22 degrees below zero.

Read about other cold-weather birds! Meet the Boreal Birds

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Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the content director of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.