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The Arctic Tern | First Day of Summer

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 12:50

Did you know that it is the first day of Summer in Iceland today? The first Thursday after April 18th is Sumardagurinn Fyrsti and a national holiday since 1971. But for many the arrival of summer is marked by another thing than this date – it is the arrival of the bird species Arctic Tern, or Kría in Icelandic. 

arctic tern kría 
 

This is a species we just love seeing on the ocean during our summer tours, not only because they show phenomenal and very agile flying skills and look rather funny with their black-capped head, but because each and every time we are in awe of what this tiny bird can do. They are real travellers, actually the best on our planet. Each year they migrate from the Antarctic where they overwinter, to sub-Arctic regions like Iceland, where they breed. That averages a round trip of around 71,000 km each year!!!! And that added up over their lifespan is like flying from Earth to the Moon and back 3 times.

Whenever we are out on the water, we can identify the Arctic Tern just by hearing them. Their cry literally sounds like their Icelandic name, “Kría”. They will be in flocks and flying to and from the water surface catching fish in their beaks at immense speeds and with impressive flying skills. The fish is not only to feed themselves though, but to bring back to their chicks, which they breed along the Icelandic coasts. Many of their breeding spots are closed off to the public from mid-May until end of June to protect the species and give them all the more reason to come back, year by year, to announce to us that summer is on the way.

Arcticle and photos by naturalist Sabrina Voswinkel