20 popular birds in arctic region with pictures

The Arctic region, with its vast icy landscapes and extreme weather conditions, is home to a diverse array of fascinating bird species. Today I am going to uncover 20 popular birds in  Arctic region. 

From the iconic Arctic Tern to the majestic Glaucous Gull, these feathered inhabitants have adapted to thrive in the challenging and unique environment of the far north. Join me on a journey to discover the remarkable diversity of avian life that graces the Arctic skies and shores.

Arctic Tern 

Scientific name:Sterna paradisaea

The Arctic Tern is a remarkable bird known for its extraordinary migratory journey, boasting the longest annual migration of any bird species. These elegant seabirds breed in the Arctic during the summer months. 

Arctic Tern 

Their striking appearance features a black cap on their head, a red bill, and deeply forked tail feathers. The Arctic Tern’s wingspan ranges from 25 to 30 inches (63 to 76 centimeters), and it has a length of about 12 inches (30 centimeters).

During the breeding season, they nest in colonies on the tundra, where they exhibit remarkable territorial behavior to protect their nests from potential threats.

Auk 

Scientific name:Alcidae Family

The term “auk” refers to several species within the Alcidae family, including the Atlantic Puffin and the Common Guillemot. These birds are well-adapted to Arctic and subarctic environments, where they thrive in cold, marine habitats. The size of auks varies among species, with the Common Guillemot, for example, having a length of about 16 to 18 inches (40 to 46 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 24 to 30 inches (61 to 76 centimeters).

Auk birds

They are characterized by their streamlined bodies, strong wings, and webbed feet, making them excellent swimmers and divers. They primarily feed on fish and marine invertebrates, using their wings to “fly” underwater in search of prey

During the breeding season, auks gather in large colonies on cliffs or rocky outcrops, where they lay eggs on narrow ledges, exhibiting remarkable agility in their cliffside habitats.

Fulmars 

Scientific name:Fulmarus glacialis

It is a seabird that inhabits the Arctic region, as well as subarctic and subantarctic zones. Fulmars have a length of around 18 to 20 inches (46 to 51 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 40 to 45 inches (102 to 114 centimeters).

Fulmars 

These birds are known for their tube-like noses, which excrete excess salt, a feature that reflects their adaptation to a marine lifestyle. Fulmars have a predominantly white plumage, with some variations in coloration, and they are skilled gliders, effortlessly riding the air currents above the open ocean.

Their diet primarily consists of fish, squid, and crustaceans, and they are often found in large colonies on cliffs during the breeding season.

Little Auk 

Scientific name:Alle alle

It is a small seabird that breeds in the Arctic region. Despite its diminutive size, with a length of around 7 to 10 inches (18 to 25 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 centimeters), Little Auks are robust and highly adapted for life at sea.

They have black and white plumage, a distinctive white patch on their face, and a short, stubby bill. Little Auks are skilled fliers and swimmers, using their wings to navigate both in the air and underwater. 

These birds primarily feed on small fish and zooplankton, often diving to considerable depths in search of prey. Little Auks nest in colonies on cliffs, where their small size allows them to find secure spots on rocky ledges during the breeding season.

Thick-billed Murre 

Scientific name:Uria lomvia

It is a large seabird that breeds in the Arctic and subarctic regions. With a length of approximately 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 centimeters) and a wingspan of about 24 to 26 inches (61 to 66 centimeters), these birds exhibit a distinct black and white plumage. 

The name “Thick-billed” refers to their robust, black bills, which are specialized for capturing fish underwater. They are exceptional divers, capable of reaching considerable depths in search of prey. During the breeding season, they gather in large colonies on cliffs or rocky outcrops, where they lay a single egg on narrow ledges. 

Thick billed Murre

Their strong, pointed wings enable them to fly adeptly over the open ocean, covering large distances in search of food. They play a vital role in Arctic marine ecosystems, contributing to the rich biodiversity of the region.

Puffins

Scientific name: Fratercula spp

They are charismatic seabirds belonging to the genus Fratercula, and several species inhabit the Arctic region, including the Atlantic Puffin. With a length of about 10 to 14 inches (25 to 36 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61 centimeters), these birds are known for their distinctive colorful bills and facial markings. 

puffin

They are skilled fliers, utilizing their short wings for rapid wing beats and agile maneuvers. They primarily feed on fish and marine invertebrates, diving from the air into the water to capture prey.

During the breeding season, puffins form large colonies on cliffs and offshore islands, where they nest in burrows or rocky crevices. Their vibrant appearance and charming behaviors make them popular and easily recognizable inhabitants of Arctic coastal areas.

Snow Bunting 

Scientific name: Plectrophenax nivalis

It is a small passerine bird that inhabits the Arctic tundra. Adult males have striking white plumage with black wingtips, while females and non-breeding males exhibit a more subdued brown and white coloration. Snow Buntings have a length of about 6.5 to 8 inches (17 to 20 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 11 to 12 inches (28 to 31 centimeters). 

Snow Bunting 

Their compact size and well-insulated plumage help them withstand the cold Arctic conditions. During the breeding season, they build nests on the ground and feed on seeds, insects, and small invertebrates. 

Known for their distinctive and melodious songs, Snow Buntings are a common sight in the Arctic tundra during the summer months.

Parasitic Jaeger 

Scientific name: Stercorarius parasiticus

The Parasitic Jaeger, scientifically known as Stercorarius parasiticus, is a seabird that breeds in the Arctic tundra and spends the winter months at sea. With a length of about 16 to 21 inches (41 to 53 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 40 to 48 inches (102 to 122 centimeters), these birds exhibit a sleek and powerful build.

 They are skilled predators and are known for their piratical behavior, harassing other seabirds to steal food. They have a distinctive dark plumage, sharp wings, and a forked tail. 

During the breeding season, they nest on the tundra, and their diet consists of fish, small mammals, and other birds. Their remarkable aerial agility and predatory tactics make them a formidable presence in Arctic ecosystems.

Red-throated Loon 

Scientific name:Gavia stellata

It is a large diving bird that breeds in the Arctic tundra and migrates to coastal waters during the winter. With a length of approximately 24 to 28 inches (61 to 71 centimeters) and a wingspan of about 46 to 55 inches (117 to 140 centimeters), these loons have a sleek and streamlined appearance.They are characterized by their distinctive red throat patch, which is more prominent during the breeding season.

They have excellent swimming and diving capabilities, using their webbed feet to navigate underwater. Their diet primarily consists of fish and invertebrates

Red-throated Loon 

During the breeding season, these birds build nests near freshwater lakes on the tundra, and their haunting calls are a characteristic sound of the Arctic landscape.

King Eider 

Scientific name:Somateria spectabilis

It is a large sea duck that breeds in the Arctic tundra and winters in coastal areas. Adult males have a striking and colorful plumage, with a distinctive orange knob on their bill, while females exhibit more subdued brown and white markings. 

King Eider 

They have a length of about 20 to 26 inches (51 to 66 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 31 to 35 inches (79 to 89 centimeters). They are well-adapted to cold marine environments and have specialized bills for feeding on mollusks and crustaceans. 

During the breeding season, they form colonies on coastal areas, and their courtship displays involve intricate head movements and vocalizations. It is a prominent and beautiful resident of Arctic coastal waters.

Rock Ptarmigan 

Scientific name:Lagopus muta

The Rock Ptarmigan, scientifically known as Lagopus muta, is a medium-sized game bird that inhabits the Arctic tundra and alpine regions. During the summer, its plumage is a mix of brown, black, and white, providing effective camouflage against the rocky terrain. In winter, the plumage becomes predominantly white to blend in with the snow.

Rock Ptarmigan 

They have a length of about 12 to 16 inches (30 to 41 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61 centimeters). They are well-adapted to the harsh Arctic conditions, with feathered feet for insulation and snowshoe-like adaptations for walking on snow. Rock Ptarmigans primarily feed on buds, shoots, and insects. 

During the breeding season, males display elaborate courtship behaviors, and females build nests on the ground. These birds are a quintessential part of the Arctic landscape, demonstrating remarkable adaptations for survival in the challenging northern environment.

Barnacle Goose 

Scientific name:Branta leucopsis

It is a medium-sized waterfowl that breeds in the Arctic tundra and winters in coastal areas. With a length of approximately 22 to 26 inches (56 to 66 centimeters) and a wingspan of about 55 to 59 inches (140 to 150 centimeters), these geese exhibit a distinctive black and white plumage with a barred pattern on their neck and breast. 

Barnacle Goose 

They are known for their striking appearance, with a black neck and face contrasting against a white body. Barnacle Geese primarily feed on grasses and other vegetation

During the breeding season, they nest on cliffs or rocky outcrops, and their migratory journeys often involve long-distance flights, with some populations traveling from the Arctic to wintering grounds in Western Europe.

Northern Gannet 

Scientific name:Morus bassanus

It is a large seabird that breeds in the Arctic and subarctic regions, forming colonies on cliffs and offshore islands. With a length of about 35 to 39 inches (89 to 99 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 67 to 71 inches (170 to 180 centimeters).

Northern Gannet 

These gannets are characterized by their striking white plumage, yellowish head, and long, slender wings. They are powerful fliers and expert divers, using their keen eyesight to spot fish in the ocean. 

They primarily feed on fish, diving from considerable heights to catch their prey. During the breeding season, they perform intricate courtship displays and build nests from seaweed and grasses on cliff ledges.

Black Guillemot 

Scientific name:Cepphus grylle

The Black Guillemot, scientifically known as Cepphus grylle, is a seabird that inhabits Arctic and subarctic coastal regions. With a length of approximately 12 to 14 inches (30 to 36 centimeters) and a wingspan of about 22 to 24 inches (56 to 61 centimeters)

These guillemots exhibit distinctive black plumage with white wing patches. During the breeding season, their black coloration transforms to a striking black-and-white pattern. 

Black Guillemot 

They are agile swimmers and divers, using their wings for propulsion underwater. Their diet primarily consists of fish and invertebrates. These birds often nest in rocky crevices or on coastal cliffs, and their vocalizations are a common sound in Arctic marine environments.

Red Phalarope 

Scientific name: Phalaropus fulicarius

It is a small shorebird that breeds in the Arctic tundra and migrates to open ocean waters during the winter. With a length of about 7 to 9 inches (18 to 23 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 centimeters), these phalaropes exhibit sexually reversed plumage, with females being more brightly colored than males. 

They have a unique feeding behavior, spinning in tight circles on the water’s surface to create a vortex that brings small prey to the surface. 

Their diet includes crustaceans, insects, and small fish. During the breeding season, they build nests on the ground in marshy areas, and their migratory journeys cover vast distances over open ocean waters.

Razorbill 

Scientific name: Alca torda

It is a medium-sized seabird that breeds in the Arctic and subarctic regions, forming colonies on coastal cliffs. With a length of about 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 centimeters) and a wingspan of approximately 24 to 28 inches (61 to 71 centimeters), these birds exhibit distinctive black and white plumage with a thick black bill. 

They are skilled divers, using their wings to propel themselves underwater in search of fish. Their diet primarily consists of small fish and invertebrates.

Razorbill arctic birds

 During the breeding season, they lay a single egg on narrow cliff ledges, and their colonies can be found in areas with abundant marine food resources. Razorbill populations are known for their strong site fidelity, returning to the same nesting sites year after year.

Glaucous Gull 

Scientific name: Larus hyperboreus

It is a large and robust gull species that inhabits the Arctic and subarctic regions. With a length of approximately 24 to 30 inches (61 to 76 centimeters) and a wingspan of about 53 to 65 inches (135 to 165 centimeters), these gulls have a distinctive appearance with a pale grayish-white plumage and pinkish legs. 

Glaucous Gull arctic birds

They are opportunistic feeders, consuming a varied diet that includes fish, seabirds, small mammals, and carrion. They are known for their scavenging behavior, often taking advantage of food sources provided by other seabird colonies.

During the breeding season, they nest on cliffs or rocky outcrops, and their populations may also winter in more temperate coastal areas.

Kittiwakes 

Scientific name: Genus Rissa

Kittiwakes refer to several closely related gull species within the genus Rissa, including the Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and the Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris). These seabirds are medium-sized gulls, with lengths ranging from approximately 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 centimeters) and wingspans of about 35 to 39 inches (89 to 99 centimeters). 

Kittiwakes 

They are characterized by their elegant appearance, featuring a white plumage, gray wings, and distinctive black wingtips. They have specialized bills adapted for capturing fish and other marine prey. Kittiwakes primarily feed on small fish and invertebrates, often foraging near the ocean’s surface.

 They form large breeding colonies on cliffs, with nests constructed from seaweed and other materials. Their evocative calls are common sounds in Arctic and subarctic coastal environments.

Long-tailed Jaeger 

Scientific name: Stercorarius longicaudus

The Long-tailed Jaeger, scientifically known as Stercorarius longicaudus, is a medium-sized seabird that breeds in the Arctic tundra and spends the winter months at sea. With a length of approximately 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 centimeters) and a wingspan of about 36 to 40 inches (91 to 102 centimeters), these jaegers exhibit a distinctive appearance with a long, pointed tail and slender wings. 

These birds are agile fliers and skilled predators, known for harassing other seabirds to steal their catches. Their diet includes small mammals, birds, and insects

During the breeding season, they nest on the tundra, and their populations are known for their striking aerial displays and vocalizations, especially when defending their nesting territories.

Common Loon 

Scientific name: Gavia immer

The Common Loon, scientifically known as Gavia immer, is a large and iconic waterbird that breeds in northern freshwater lakes, including those in the Arctic. With a length of approximately 28 to 36 inches (71 to 91 centimeters) and a wingspan of about 58 to 67 inches (147 to 170 centimeters), They have a distinctive appearance with a black-and-white checkered back, a black head, and a red eye. 

common loon arctic birds

They are well-adapted to aquatic life, with powerful legs positioned far back on their bodies for efficient swimming. Common Loons primarily feed on fish, using their sharp bills to capture prey underwater. 

During the breeding season, they build nests near lakeshores, and their haunting calls are characteristic sounds of northern lakeshores. Common Loons are known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve synchronized swimming and vocalizations.

How do Birds Survive in the Arctic Region?

Let’s have a detailed insights into the adaptations of Arctic birds

Feathers and Insulation

The insulation provided by the thick layers of down feathers is crucial for Arctic birds in maintaining their body temperature in the extreme cold of the Arctic region. Down feathers trap a layer of air close to the bird’s body, acting as an effective insulator against the frigid temperatures. 

This adaptation is especially important during the long Arctic winters when temperatures can drop significantly below freezing. In addition to insulation, some Arctic birds, like the Ptarmigan, undergo a molt to grow a thicker coat of feathers during winter, further enhancing their ability to conserve heat.
The unique structure of the feathers also plays a role in waterproofing. Many Arctic birds have feathers with specialized oils that make them resistant to water, preventing them from getting soaked during activities such as diving for food. 

This waterproofing is vital in the Arctic, where freezing temperatures could otherwise pose a risk of hypothermia if feathers were to become waterlogged.

Reduced Metabolic Rate:

Arctic birds have evolved the ability to adjust their metabolic rate to conserve energy during challenging conditions. By reducing their metabolic rate, they can minimize the energy requirements needed to maintain basic bodily functions.

 This metabolic flexibility allows them to survive periods of food scarcity, especially during the winter months when resources are limited. This adaptation is crucial for their overall energy balance and helps them endure extended periods without regular access to food.


The capacity to lower metabolic rates is often coupled with a state of torpor, where the bird enters a temporary and controlled decrease in physiological activity. This state allows them to conserve energy during the coldest parts of the day or night when the environmental conditions are most challenging. By strategically managing their metabolic activity, Arctic birds can optimize their energy use and increase their chances of survival in the harsh Arctic climate.

Compact Body Size

The compact body size observed in many Arctic bird species is a result of evolutionary processes favoring smaller bodies in cold environments. Larger bodies have a higher surface area through which heat can be lost, making them less efficient in conserving body heat. 

In contrast, smaller bodies have a greater ratio of volume to surface area, reducing heat loss and enabling better insulation. This adaptation is particularly advantageous in the Arctic, where maintaining body temperature is crucial for survival.
Additionally, a smaller body size contributes to increased agility and maneuverability, allowing Arctic birds to navigate their icy habitats more effectively. This agility is essential for activities such as foraging, evading predators, and negotiating the challenging terrain of the Arctic tundra. 

The combination of a compact body size and enhanced agility represents a successful evolutionary strategy for Arctic birds to thrive in their harsh environment.

Specialized Feeding Strategies

The Arctic region presents unique challenges for finding food, with frozen landscapes and limited vegetation. Arctic birds have evolved specialized feeding strategies to overcome these challenges. Predatory species, like the Snowy Owl, have keen eyesight and acute hearing to locate small mammals beneath the snow or in the surrounding tundra.

Their ability to precisely locate and capture prey in these conditions is a testament to their well-adapted hunting skills.
Herbivorous species, such as the Snow Bunting, primarily feed on seeds and insects that are available in the Arctic tundra during the short summer months. These birds are adapted to efficiently extract nutrients from these scarce food sources.

Some species also take advantage of seasonal fluctuations in food availability, altering their diets to meet changing nutritional needs throughout the year. The diversity of feeding strategies among Arctic birds highlights their adaptability and resourcefulness in the face of environmental constraints.

Migratory Behavior

The migratory behavior of many Arctic birds is a key adaptation to cope with the extreme conditions of the Arctic region, especially during the harsh winter months.

As temperatures plummet and food becomes scarce, these birds embark on long journeys to more temperate regions where conditions are more favorable. Migration allows them to escape the severe cold, reduced daylight, and scarcity of food, ensuring their survival through the challenging winter season.
Migratory patterns are often dictated by the availability of resources. For example, birds that primarily feed on insects or small mammals may migrate to areas where these food sources remain accessible year-round.

The precision and timing of migration are critical factors for the success of this adaptation, and many Arctic bird species have finely tuned internal cues to initiate and complete their migratory journeys. 

By undertaking these extensive migrations, Arctic birds can exploit a broader range of habitats and resources, enhancing their overall chances of survival.

Behavioral Adaptations

Arctic birds exhibit various behavioral adaptations to cope with the extreme conditions of their environment. One notable behavior is communal roosting, where birds huddle together in groups to conserve heat.

This behavior is particularly important during the cold Arctic nights when temperatures can drop drastically. By sharing body heat, birds in a communal roost can collectively reduce heat loss and increase their chances of survival.
Another behavioral adaptation is seeking shelter during storms. Arctic regions often experience strong winds and snowstorms, which can be challenging for birds to navigate. 

Some species take refuge in natural features like rock crevices or sheltered areas to avoid the full force of the elements. This behavior not only helps protect them from the immediate dangers of harsh weather but also contributes to their long-term survival by minimizing stress and energy expenditure.

Thick Bills and Feet

The specialized bills of Arctic birds play a crucial role in their survival by enabling them to access food in frozen environments. For example, the Common Eider, a sea duck, has a stout and powerful bill that allows it to dive into icy waters and extract mollusks and crustaceans from the seafloor. 

The thickness and strength of the bill help break through ice and withstand the challenges of foraging in cold water.
Additionally, many Arctic birds have feathered legs and feet, providing insulation against the cold. This adaptation is particularly important for species that wade or swim in icy waters, such as shorebirds and waterfowl. 

The insulating layer of feathers helps prevent heat loss from the extremities, allowing these birds to maintain their body temperature while actively foraging in frigid environments. The combination of specialized bills and insulated extremities showcases the intricate adaptations that enable Arctic birds to exploit their specific ecological niches.

Nocturnal Behavior

Nocturnal behavior is another adaptation seen in some Arctic birds, allowing them to optimize their activities during the coldest and darkest parts of the day. Species like the Snowy Owl, known for its striking white plumage, are active hunters during the night. 

By hunting in low-light conditions, these birds can capitalize on the reduced activity of prey and minimize their own exposure to harsh daytime elements.
Nocturnal behavior also aligns with the seasonal variations in daylight in the Arctic, where extended periods of darkness characterize the winter months. 

By being active during the night, these birds can efficiently utilize the limited daylight for activities such as navigation, courtship, and territorial defense. This adaptation demonstrates the flexibility of Arctic birds in adjusting their daily routines to maximize their chances of survival in a challenging environment.

Camouflage

Camouflage is a crucial adaptation for Arctic birds, helping them blend into the snowy landscape and avoid detection by predators or prey. The plumage of many Arctic bird species, such as the ptarmigan, turns white during winter, providing effective camouflage against the snow-covered terrain. 

This seasonal change in coloration is a remarkable adaptation that enhances their chances of survival by reducing their visibility to both predators and potential prey.
Camouflage is not limited to visual cues alone; some birds also modify their behavior to enhance their concealment. 

For example, during periods of rest or roosting, birds may tuck their heads and bodies to minimize their profile, making it more difficult for predators to spot them against the snow. The combination of adaptive coloration and behavioral strategies highlights the sophisticated ways in which Arctic birds have evolved to thrive in their snowy environments.

Ice Roosting

Ice roosting is a behavior observed in some Arctic bird species, where they roost on ice to avoid ground-based predators. By perching on ice formations, birds such as the Snow Goose can create a natural barrier that hinders access to their nests or resting sites.

This strategy takes advantage of the reflective properties of ice, making it challenging for predators to approach undetected.Ice roosting also provides birds with an elevated vantage point, allowing them to monitor their surroundings for potential threats.

The use of ice formations as roosting sites showcases the resourcefulness of Arctic birds in utilizing their environment to enhance their safety and survival. This behavior is particularly important in regions where terrestrial vegetation is scarce, and finding suitable roosting sites on the ground may be challenging.

Conclusion

In the frozen expanse of the Arctic, where temperatures drop to chilling lows, these 20 popular birds have carved out their niches, showcasing incredible adaptations and resilience. From the aerial acrobatics of the Arctic Tern to the scavenging prowess of the Glaucous Gull, each species plays a crucial role in the delicate balance of this pristine ecosystem. As we marvel at the wonders of these Arctic birds, let us appreciate the intricate beauty and survival strategies that make them an integral part of this icy realm.

FAQs

Which bird lives in the Arctic region?

Many bird species inhabit the Arctic region, adapted to its extreme conditions. Common examples include the Snowy Owl, Arctic Tern, Snow Bunting, and various waterfowl such as the Common Eider.

What are the white birds in the Arctic?

The Arctic has several white birds, adapted for camouflage in snowy environments. Notable examples include the Snowy Owl, Ptarmigan, Ivory Gull, and Ross’s Gull.

Do birds fly in the Arctic?

Yes, birds do fly in the Arctic. Many species are migratory, flying to and from the Arctic region during different seasons. Resident birds also fly for feeding, mating, and other activities.

What birds of prey live in the Arctic?

Birds of prey in the Arctic include the iconic Snowy Owl, Gyrfalcon, Peregrine Falcon, and Rough-legged Hawk. These predators have adapted to hunt in the harsh Arctic conditions.

What is the Arctic migratory bird?

The Arctic Tern holds the title for the longest migratory journey, traveling from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back. This remarkable bird covers thousands of miles each way during its annual migration, making it the Arctic’s notable migratory species.

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