Aleutian Tern

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Scientific Information

The Aleutian Tern (Onychoprion aleuticus) is an uncommon breeder on the Seward Peninsula nesting on the coastal lowlands. Even though they winter in the North Pacific they usually arrive a week later than the Arctic Tern. The species was first found on Kodiak Island and was named because it was thought they would breed on the Aleutians, which was later found untrue.

Ed Clark (Alaska Rare Bird Listserv moderator) adds “The flocks have a tendency to wander and one colony will occupy previous nest sights for several years and then the next year completely abandon the nest colony, only to show up somewhere else!” They tend to nest among Arctic Terns who are very defensive of their nests. Aleutian Terns however are not defensive of their nests and it is thought that they probably take advantage of the Arctic Terns protective behaviors.

They can be differentiated from Arctic Terns by their white forehead and darker overall appearance.

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