A sure sign of spring in northern Europe is the arrival of the Arctic tern bird, but on the UN’s World Migratory Bird Day experts fear the warming of the oceans in its nesting grounds in the northern Atlantic is threatening its very existence.
The Arctic tern is a great traveller, and spends most of the year on the move, with long periods over the ocean. Its breeding grounds cover both the northern and southern polar regions. In Europe, during the summer months, it can be found from Brittany in the south, to Iceland, Greenland, and Svalbard in the north. Come autumn, the terns head south in the direction of Antarctica where they stay during the northern winter. However, they don’t fly directly from north to south, and an individual bird has been known to have covered almost 100,000 kilometres, or twice the circumference of the planet.
However, he is concerned by the decline in Iceland’s tern population – which currently stands at some 250,000 nesting couples – over the last few decades, with climate change the probable culprit. Because of the warming ocean, algae are blooming earlier in the year, too early for young sand eels to feed. This means that stocks of sand eel, an important food source for migratory sea birds, have collapsed in the seas around Iceland.
World Migratory Bird Day is held twice annually in the spring and the autumn.
“Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a Bird!” is the theme of this year’s World Migratory Bird Day, held on 8 May. The Day highlights a global campaign dedicated to raising awareness of migratory birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.