Top 15 Types Of Arctic Birds (with Photos)

The Arctic region is home to a myriad of fascinating and resilient bird species, each adapted to thrive in its harsh and unforgiving environment. From the majestic Snowy Owl to the nimble Arctic Tern, these avian inhabitants possess unique characteristics and behaviors that have captivated scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.

But what other types of birds call the Arctic their home? In this discussion, we will explore a variety of Arctic birds, including the charming Puffin, the powerful Gyrfalcon, and the elegant King Eider.

Prepare to be intrigued by the diverse array of species that have adapted to survive and thrive in the extreme conditions of the Arctic.

Snowy Owl

The Snowy Owl, also known as Bubo scandiacus, is a large, majestic bird that inhabits the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. This magnificent bird has developed several behavioral adaptations that enable it to thrive in its harsh environment. One of the most notable adaptations is its ability to withstand extremely low temperatures. The Snowy Owl has specialized feathers that provide excellent insulation, keeping its body warm even in freezing conditions. Additionally, its white plumage not only helps it blend into the snowy landscape but also serves as camouflage when hunting its prey.

In terms of habitat and distribution, the Snowy Owl prefers open areas such as tundra, marshes, and prairies. It is commonly found in Arctic regions, including Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Scandinavia. During the breeding season, the Snowy Owl typically nests on the ground, using elevated sites such as mounds or rocks to provide better visibility and protection for its eggs and young.

Arctic Tern

An image capturing the mesmerizing flight of an Arctic Tern gracefully gliding over the Arctic Ocean, with its sleek white feathers contrasting against the vast blue sky and icy landscape

In the vast Arctic expanse, where the Snowy Owl reigns with its remarkable adaptations, another avian marvel takes flight – the Arctic Tern, known scientifically as Sterna paradisaea.

The Arctic Tern is a small bird with a wingspan of about 80 cm and a weight of only 100 grams. What sets this bird apart is its incredible migration patterns. It is known to travel from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again, covering a distance of over 70,000 km round trip. This exceptional journey allows the Arctic Tern to experience two summers each year.

When it comes to nesting habits, the Arctic Tern prefers to lay its eggs in colonies on the ground. These colonies are usually located in coastal areas or on islands, providing protection from predators. The nests are simple scrapes in the ground, lined with pebbles, grass, or other materials found in the vicinity.

The female Arctic Tern lays one to three eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about three weeks. Once the chicks hatch, they are fed by both parents and learn to fly within a month. The nesting period concludes when the Arctic Terns begin their remarkable migration.


An image showcasing the vibrant and comical Puffin, an Arctic bird with its distinct bright orange beak, black and white plumage, and small, stocky body, perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the icy blue sea

With its distinctively colorful beak and striking appearance, the Puffin, scientifically known as Fratercula arctica, captivates both researchers and bird enthusiasts alike. Puffins are seabirds that belong to the family Alcidae and are famous for their unique breeding behaviors. These birds typically nest in burrows along coastal cliffs or on remote islands. Puffin breeding colonies can consist of thousands of pairs, creating a bustling and noisy environment during the breeding season.

Regarding their diet and feeding habits, Puffins primarily feed on small fish, such as sand eels and herring, which they catch by diving underwater. They are capable of diving to depths of up to 60 meters and can stay submerged for several minutes. Puffins use their specialized beaks to hold multiple fish at once, allowing them to transport their catch back to their nests to feed their chicks.

The Puffin’s unique combination of breeding behavior and diet make it a fascinating subject for study and observation.


An image capturing the sheer power of a majestic Gyrfalcon soaring through the Arctic skies, its pristine white feathers contrasting against the icy blue backdrop, displaying its impressive wingspan and focused gaze

Continuing our exploration of Arctic birds, the Gyrfalcon, scientifically known as Falco rusticolus, stands out as an impressive and formidable predator in these icy northern regions. With its large size and powerful wingspan, the Gyrfalcon is well-adapted to survive in the harsh Arctic environment. Let us delve into the hunting habits and breeding patterns of this magnificent bird.

The Gyrfalcon is a skilled hunter, specializing in capturing medium-sized birds and mammals. It relies on its exceptional speed and agility to pursue its prey, often diving from great heights to deliver a swift and lethal strike. Its keen eyesight allows it to spot potential targets from a considerable distance.

In terms of breeding patterns, the Gyrfalcon is a monogamous species. Mating pairs form strong bonds that last throughout the breeding season. They build nests on rocky cliffs or ledges, using materials such as twigs, grass, and feathers. The female typically lays a clutch of 3-5 eggs, which both parents take turns incubating for approximately 30 days. After hatching, the chicks are cared for by both parents and learn essential hunting skills before they fledge.

To provide a more enjoyable reading experience, here is a table highlighting some key characteristics of the Gyrfalcon:

Characteristics Details
Scientific Name Falco rusticolus
Habitat Arctic regions, including tundra and rocky cliffs
Size Length: 20-24 inches (50-61 cm)
Wingspan: 45-61 inches (114-155 cm)

King Eider

An image showcasing the elegant King Eider, a regal Arctic bird with a contrasting color palette

The King Eider, scientifically known as Somateria spectabilis, is an intriguing species of Arctic bird that displays unique characteristics and behaviors in its habitat. These birds are known for their striking appearance, with the males showcasing a vibrant mix of colors, including black, white, and orange. They have a large, wedge-shaped bill and a prominent crest on their head.

King Eiders are primarily found in the Arctic regions, where they inhabit coastal areas and breed on remote islands. They are skilled divers and feed on a diet consisting mainly of mollusks and crustaceans.

Interestingly, King Eiders often form large flocks during the winter months, sometimes even mingling with other species like the Snowy Owl. This behavior provides them with safety in numbers and allows for effective foraging and protection against predators.

Ivory Gull

An image showcasing the elegant Ivory Gull gliding gracefully through the Arctic air

The ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea), a graceful and elusive Arctic bird, captivates with its pristine white plumage. This small gull species, weighing only 500 grams, has adapted remarkably to the harsh Arctic climate. Conservation efforts are crucial for the survival of the ivory gull, as it is listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN. This bird relies on sea ice for breeding and foraging, making it particularly vulnerable to climate change and declining sea ice coverage. The ivory gull has several adaptations that enable it to thrive in the Arctic. Its thick plumage provides insulation against the frigid temperatures, while its short legs and webbed feet allow for efficient swimming and walking on ice. Moreover, its beak is uniquely designed to feed on fish and invertebrates found in the Arctic waters. By understanding the ivory gull’s adaptations and implementing effective conservation efforts, we can help ensure the survival of this magnificent Arctic bird.

Adaptations Description Purpose
Thick Plumage Insulation against cold Maintain body temperature
Short Legs and Webbed Feet Efficient swimming and walking on ice Foraging and mobility
Specialized Beak Designed for feeding on fish and invertebrates Food acquisition

Note: The table above highlights some of the key adaptations of the ivory gull.

Ross’s Gull

An image capturing the elegance of a Ross's Gull gracefully soaring above the icy Arctic tundra, its delicate pink plumage contrasting against the pristine white landscape, evoking a sense of tranquility and awe

With its delicate pink plumage and graceful flight, Ross’s Gull (Rhodostethia rosea) is a captivating Arctic bird that stands out among its counterparts. This small gull species breeds in the high Arctic regions, including the northern parts of Canada, Russia, and Greenland. During the breeding season, Ross’s Gull typically nests near freshwater bodies such as lakes and ponds. It prefers areas with low vegetation cover, allowing for easier access to its preferred food sources.

Speaking of its diet, Ross’s Gull is primarily a carnivorous bird. It feeds on a variety of small aquatic invertebrates, including insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. It is also known to consume small fish and occasionally scavenges on carrion. Ross’s Gull has adapted well to its Arctic habitat, showcasing its ability to survive and thrive in extreme conditions.

Sabine’s Gull

An image showcasing the elegant Sabine's Gull in its arctic habitat

As we shift our focus to the next Arctic bird species, let us now turn our attention to Sabine’s Gull (Xema sabini), a captivating avian inhabitant of the Arctic region. Sabine’s Gull is a medium-sized gull species known for its striking appearance and interesting breeding behavior. During the breeding season, these gulls nest in the Arctic tundra and coastal areas, forming loose colonies. They exhibit a unique behavior known as "scraping," where they create a shallow depression in the ground to lay their eggs.

In terms of migration patterns, Sabine’s Gulls undertake long-distance journeys, traveling from their Arctic breeding grounds to their wintering areas in the southern hemisphere. They are known to migrate across vast distances, including the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This species can often be spotted along coastlines and offshore waters during their migration, where they feed on small fish, invertebrates, and insects.

To provide a deeper understanding, the following table summarizes key information about Sabine’s Gull:

Species Name Xema sabini
Breeding Behavior Nesting in colonies, scraping nests
Migration Patterns Long-distance migration, across oceans
Diet Small fish, invertebrates, insects
Size Medium-sized gull
Appearance Striking plumage, black hood, white body

Sabine’s Gulls are truly fascinating creatures, with their unique breeding behavior and impressive migration patterns. Studying these avian inhabitants of the Arctic region provides valuable insights into the diverse and captivating world of bird species.

Spectacled Eider

An image of a graceful Spectacled Eider gliding above the icy Arctic waters, displaying its distinctive black and white plumage, with its striking "spectacles" encircling its eyes, as it dives for its favorite prey

A distinctive and captivating species found in the Arctic region, the Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri) is an intriguing sea duck known for its unique appearance and habitat preferences.

This medium-sized bird, measuring around 50 centimeters in length, has a striking black body with a white head and neck. Its name comes from the distinct white patches around its eyes, resembling spectacles.

The Spectacled Eider is typically found in coastal areas and shallow offshore waters, where it feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic plants.

Conservation efforts have been put in place to protect this species, as its population has been declining due to habitat loss and disturbance. The Spectacled Eider requires undisturbed breeding sites with access to both freshwater and marine environments.

Protecting and restoring their nesting habitats, as well as minimizing disturbances from human activities, are crucial for the long-term survival of this unique Arctic bird.

Thick-billed Murre

An image showcasing the majestic Thick-billed Murre, a black and white arctic bird with a distinctive thick bill, perfectly adapted for diving deep into icy waters

The Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia) is a fascinating seabird species that inhabits the Arctic region. With its distinctive thick bill and black and white plumage, this bird is well-adapted to its harsh environment. The Thick-billed Murre exhibits various behavioral adaptations that enable it to survive in the Arctic. For instance, it is an excellent diver and can plunge up to 180 meters underwater in search of prey, such as fish and invertebrates. It also has the ability to fly long distances to locate suitable breeding grounds. Speaking of breeding, the Thick-billed Murre has interesting breeding habits. It forms large colonies on cliffs and rocky ledges, where it lays a single egg and both parents take turns incubating it. This species demonstrates remarkable parental care, with both parents feeding the chick until it fledges and becomes independent. Overall, the Thick-billed Murre is a remarkable Arctic bird with unique behavioral adaptations and intriguing breeding habits.

Thick-billed Murre
Class Aves
Order Charadriiformes
Family Alcidae
Genus Uria

Long-tailed Duck

An image capturing the elegance and beauty of a Long-tailed Duck gliding gracefully over icy Arctic waters, showcasing its striking black and white plumage contrasted against the serene blue backdrop

The Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) is a striking bird species found in the Arctic region, known for its remarkable plumage and unique adaptations for survival in its harsh environment.

This small to medium-sized duck has a distinctive long, slender tail that gives it its name. The male Long-tailed Duck displays a striking breeding plumage, with its body covered in a mix of black, white, and gray feathers, while the female has a more mottled brown coloration.

These ducks are well adapted to their Arctic habitat, with specialized bills that allow them to feed on a variety of prey, including small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. They are also excellent divers, capable of reaching depths of up to 60 meters in search of food.

The Long-tailed Duck is known for its long-distance migration, with some individuals traveling as far as the Arctic Tern, another remarkable bird species known for its impressive migratory journeys.

Red-throated Loon

An image that showcases the elegance of a Red-throated Loon gliding gracefully across a serene Arctic lake, its striking red throat contrasting against its sleek black and white plumage

The Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) is a distinctive avian species found in the Arctic region, captivating observers with its elegant appearance and remarkable adaptations for survival in its challenging habitat. This magnificent Arctic bird has unique adaptations that allow it to thrive in extreme conditions.

One of the most striking features of the Red-throated Loon is its vibrant red throat, which is displayed during courtship and territorial displays. This coloration serves as a visual signal to potential mates and rivals.

To survive in the harsh Arctic environment, the Red-throated Loon has several adaptations. Its streamlined body and webbed feet enable it to swim effortlessly through the icy waters, while its waterproof feathers provide insulation and protection from the cold.

In terms of breeding and migration, red-throated loons are known for their long-distance movements. They breed in the Arctic during the summer months, building their nests near water bodies. In the winter, they migrate to more temperate coastal areas, where they can find open water and abundant food sources.

Northern Fulmar

An image capturing the grace of a Northern Fulmar in flight, gliding effortlessly above icy Arctic waters

Occasionally seen soaring gracefully above the Arctic seas, the Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) is a remarkable seabird known for its resilience and unique foraging behavior. This medium-sized bird has a wingspan of about 100-110 cm and is predominantly white with gray and black markings.

One of the most interesting behavioral adaptations of the Northern Fulmar is its ability to produce a foul-smelling oil that it uses for defense. When threatened, the bird regurgitates this oil, which not only repels predators but also helps in waterproofing its feathers. This adaptation allows the Northern Fulmar to thrive in the harsh Arctic environment.

In terms of breeding habits, Northern Fulmars typically form long-term monogamous pairs. They return to the same nesting site year after year and lay a single egg in a well-constructed nest made of grass, feathers, and seaweed. Both parents take turns incubating the egg and caring for the chick.

The chick is fed a diet consisting mostly of fish and squid, regurgitated by the parents. Northern Fulmars breed in large colonies, and their synchronized breeding behavior helps maximize the survival of their offspring in a challenging environment.

Common Eider

An image capturing the serene beauty of a Common Eider gracefully gliding across the icy Arctic waters, its distinctive black and white plumage glistening under the soft golden hues of the setting sun

With its distinctive appearance and remarkable diving abilities, the Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) is a captivating seaduck species found in the Arctic region. These large-bodied birds have a unique coloration, with males displaying a striking black and white plumage, while females exhibit a more subdued brown color. The Common Eider is known for its migration patterns, as it travels long distances between its breeding grounds in the Arctic and its wintering areas along the coasts of Europe, North America, and eastern Asia.

When it comes to nesting habits, the Common Eider is highly adaptive. They typically build their nests close to the water, either on rocky cliffs or on small islands. The female eider lines the nest with soft down feathers, plucked from her own breast, providing excellent insulation for the eggs. The male eider plays a protective role and helps defend the nest from potential predators. Once the eggs hatch, the female leads the ducklings to the water, where they learn to swim and feed. The Common Eider’s nesting habits showcase their ability to thrive in the challenging Arctic environment.

To highlight the key information about the Common Eider’s migration patterns and nesting habits, the following table provides a concise summary:

Migration Patterns Nesting Habits
Long-distance travel between breeding grounds in the Arctic and wintering areas along coasts Nests close to water on rocky cliffs or small islands
Males display black and white plumage, while females have brown coloration Females line nests with soft down feathers
Adaptability and protection in challenging Arctic environment Male eider assists in defending the nest
Female leads ducklings to water for swimming and feeding

Black-legged Kittiwake

An image capturing the elegance of a Black-legged Kittiwake in its natural habitat

Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) are gregarious seabirds that inhabit the Arctic region, known for their distinctive appearance and remarkable nesting behavior. These medium-sized gulls have a black wingtip, giving them their name, along with a white body and a yellow bill.

They are often seen in large colonies, nesting on cliffs and rocky ledges near the coast. The nests are made of vegetation and mud, providing a secure place for the eggs and chicks. Black-legged Kittiwakes are skilled at catching fish and other small marine creatures, using their sharp beaks to snatch prey from the water’s surface. They have a unique way of hunting, by hovering above the water and diving headfirst to catch their prey.

These birds also have to navigate through the Arctic region, where they may encounter other species like the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). The Snowy Owl, a powerful predator, poses a potential threat to the Black-legged Kittiwake population, preying on their eggs and chicks. Despite this, the Black-legged Kittiwake has adapted to survive in this challenging environment, using their social behavior and remarkable flying skills to thrive in the Arctic.

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