Setting the Record Straight on Antarctic Birds


OK, time to set a few things straight after Matt’s blog – particularly before Josh Stoll comments on Matt’s inability to identify Antarctic birds.  First of all, the bird in Matt’s picture labeled ‘Some Bird’ is obviously a kelp gull (Larus dominicanus).  This is a common bird.  I mean, really.

Second, he didn’t make much of a deal about his first snow petrel – the most beautiful bird in the Antarctic.  Watching one of these birds glide along a big iceberg is one of the most evocative experiences one can have down here.  And there are actually two species – lesser and greater snow petrels.

Third, Matt says he saw his first Antarctic tern – which may, in fact, be true.  What he doesn’t mention is that the most common tern down here at the moment is not the Antarctic tern, but the Arctic tern.  That’s right the Arctic tern.  These birds breed throughout the northern Holarctic, including Greenland, Iceland, Siberia and North America.  But they spend their winters down here in the Antarctic.  Each round trip is about 38,000 km and an average Arctic tern travels more than 800,000 km during its lifetime.  How crazy is that?  Some birders suggest that these delicate birds are addicted to sunlight because they spend most of their lives in high latitudes during summer.  We often see them dipping over small patches of krill at the surface and resting on icebergs.

Anyway, just needed to clear up a few things before Josh got on our case.





4 thoughts on “Setting the Record Straight on Antarctic Birds

  1. Glad that Andy is setting some things straight about Matt’s firsts. However, his description of the seasonal shenanigans of an Arctic Tern might still get Josh Stoll a bit worked up. Arctic terns spend *boreal* winters in the Antarctic. One could argue (as Zach Swaim pointed out to me just now) that Arctic Terns don’t really even have winters. Instead, like Mike Hynson and Robert August, they experience the Endless Summer.

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