10 Fantastic Arctic Birds You’ll Want to See in the Flesh

The Arctic region is a magnet for some of the most incredible and breathtaking birds on the planet. It’s no surprise that many bird lovers consider it as a must-visit destination.

Whether you’re planning to visit the Arctic soon or interested in wildlife, take time to learn more about Arctic birds.

Below are 10 of the most interesting Arctic birds.


Puffins are friendly-looking and fun-loving birds. They’re called the clowns of the Atlantic. They never fail to elicit laughs with the way they tumble and roll across water surfaces.

Puffins belong to the Charadriiformes family. They’re quite small, with adults reaching 12 inches in height. Their bodies are black, white, and grey. They have brightly-colored beaks that change color depending on the season.

These seabirds mostly live on the western coast of Europe. They also thrive on the eastern coast of the United States and Canada. They primarily eat fish, although they may also feed on shrimp and other crustaceans.


The cormorant is large and hard-to-miss. People think it is greedy and gluttonous. This may be due to the voracious appetite of the bird. It has dark feathers with a long and hooked bill. They are long birds whose wingspan can reach 39 inches.

Cormorants are expert divers capable of diving up to depths of 45 meters. They live near coasts and living rocky cliffs. They are colonial nesters who like to hunt together. Their diet consists mostly of water snakes, fish, and eels.

Arctic tern

Arctic tern belongs to the Laridae family. They are small, migratory birds who can grow up to 15 inches long.

They are best known for their year-long migrations. They travel from their breeding grounds in the Arctic all the way to Antarctica to enjoy the summer.

A typical Arctic tern can travel up to 1.5 million miles in his lifetime.

They are scattered across northern Europe, South America, and Iceland. Aside from being nomadic, Arctic terns are social birds who love to nest in colonies.

If not flying high and hunting for food, they like to rest on ice. Their diet consists of fish and crustaceans.

Yellow-billed Loon

The biggest member of the genus Gavia or loons, the yellow-billed loon, can grow up to 38 inches long. Its wingspan can grow more than 5 feet. Unlike its other family members who have gray heads, the yellow-billed loon has a blackhead.

Yellow-billed loons thrive throughout Alaska and northern Canada. They also live in many parts of Eurasia.

They spend most of the day floating and diving in the waters. This allows them to feed on small fishes. But they also eat insects, frogs, mollusks, and aquatic plants.

Rock Ptarmigan

The Rock Ptarmigan is an Arctic bird that lives in the tundra. It is a medium-sized gamebird that looks like a chicken from afar. It can grow to about 16 inches long with a squared tail and feathered legs that allow it to walk in snow.

This long-tailed bird has the ability to change its colors depending on the season. During snowy winter, it is all-white.

When it’s summer, it changes color to brown. This allows the bird to hide from predators like the golden eagle. This bird eats leaves, flowers, buds, and berries.

Ivory Gull

The Ivory Gull is a small, high arctic seabird. It belongs to the genus Pagophila. Its habitat is scattered across northern America, Eurasia, and Greenland.

The adult bird can grow up to 16 inches long. Its wingspan can reach up to 48 inches. It has a white body with black legs and dark eyes. Its bill is pale blue with a yellow tip.

This white bird hovers and dips for its prey in water. It feeds on small fishes, macro-zooplankton, and other ice-associated fauna. It likes nesting on cliffs, islands, and mountains. You may even see it floating on ice.

Peregrine Falcon

This bird Arctic is also the fastest bird in the world. It can fly up to 240 miles an hour, which is almost thrice faster than a cheetah can run on land.

Like other tundra birds, they are migratory in nature. In fact, the name “Peregrine” means a traveler. These birds can spend their breeding season in an Arctic tundra. They then migrate to North America the next season.

A member of the Falconidae family, the Peregrine Falcon, can grow up to 20 inches long. Its wingspan can reach up to 43 inches. It can grow up to 17 years in the wild. They are excellent hunters. They prey on bats and other smaller birds, usually during mid-flight.

In the Arctic, this bird often lives in tundras. Elsewhere, they live in open habitats such as coastlines, mountain chains, and mudflats.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is one of the many migratory birds in the high Arctic. It stays in the Arctic tundra when breeding. During the non-breeding season, it migrates to South America.

A small shorebird, it belongs to the Calidris genus. It can grow to around 8 inches long. It has a colorful and pale body. The bill is straight and dark. It has yellow legs.

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper likes to stay in dry and grassy habitats. This includes prairies and sod farms. In South America, it likes to stay in grazed pastureland. This bird eats insects and other invertebrates.

Steller’s Eider

Steller’s Eider is small sea ducks. They have beautiful and colorful bodies. But the females are less noticeable with their brown bodies. They have a blue patch on their wings. The head of the male adult has shades of green at the back. The bill is long and bluish-gray.

They breed inland yet spend most of their year in the coastal waters. This allows them to hunt and eat crustaceans and mollusks. They also feed on eelgrass and pondweeds. Like other arctic seabirds, their population is also threatened.

Snow Goose

Snow goose belongs to the genus Anser. They live in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Siberia and British Columbia are other areas where snow goose thrive.

The snow goose likes to travel in flocks. They forage on wintering grounds. They dig up roots and tubers in search of food. And when in flight, they like to form a pattern in the sky.

This goose breeds in the arctic tundra. In the winter, they migrate down south to escape the cold. They return to their tundra nests during the spring season.

The goose has a white plumage and pink bill. Its wingtips are black. It grows up to 33 inches long.

Frequently Asked Questions

Arctic Birds

1. Are birds of the Arctic declining?

Reports say that northern birds are on the decline. This includes bird species like rock ptarmigan and ivory gulls. This is due to shifts in their reproductive cycles.

Prey of these arctic birds is also dwindling. This contributes to the dwindling populations of said birds of the arctic.

2. Are there crows in the arctic?

Yes, ravens can survive the winter cold in the arctic for an entire year. Ravens are the biggest members of the crow family.

3. Why do birds migrate to the arctic?

Birds migrate to the Arctic to escape predators. One study showed that the farther birds go to the north or in the arctic, the higher their chances of surviving predators.

4. Which birds live in ice?

Species like a snowy owl, emperor penguin, and willow ptarmigan can live in ice throughout the year—snowy owl breeds on tundras.

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