This small Gull like seabird with the “black cap” is actually a member of the Sternidae family and you won’t find this bird nesting or breeding on our local coast. The arctic tern lands once every one to three years (depending on their mating cycle) to nest at the northern shores of Antarctica and once they have finished nesting they take to the sky for another long southern migration which will include occasional stops around our coast.
The average Arctic Tern in its life will travel a distance equal to going to the moon and back—about 500,000 miles. I guess that’s good enough reason for not hanging around Portlethen too long, they have to get those air miles in!
You won’t find these birds resting or roosting on our rocks and their preference is to stay within the vicinity of the water. In fact they are sometimes difficult to spot from the land and you get a better sighting of them when you are in a boat at sea, where you can sometimes get fantastic views of them diving and launching themselves into the water in search of food.
We were always told that if you saw an Arctic Tern perching on one of the poles of the salmon nets at sea that it was a sure sign that there was grilse (young salmon) around. I have no idea if that’s a fisherman’s tale or an actual fact but it did feel like a positive talisman to see each pole of a net being occupied by an Arctic Tern.
How many eggs do they lay? According to Wikipedia they lay one to three but since their nesting site is out with our vicinity I can’t claim to ever having seen any. If suddenly a Tern’s nest appears in Muckle Shore then someone please let me know.