Sterna paradisaea

Status:  Rare casual spring and fall migrant statewide.

Documentation:  Photograph: 20 Sep 2000 molting adult Lake Minatare, Scotts Bluff Co (Dinsmore 2000).

TaxonomyNo subspecies are recognized.

Spring: There are three accepted records:

16-19 May 2003 alternate adult Lake McConaughy, Keith Co (Brogie 2004)

31 May 2015 alternate adult photographed Marsh Duck WMA, York Co (Brogie 2016)

11 Jun 2006 alternate adult photographed Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2006).

Fall: There are three documented records and two additional reports not accepted by NOURC.

20 Sep 2000 molting adult Lake Minatare (Dinsmore 2000; Jorgensen 2002)

26 Sep-1 Oct 2006 first cycle Lake North, Platte Co (Silcock 2006)

15-21 Oct 2020 immature joined by adult 18-21 Oct Gavin’s Point Dam area, Cedar and Knox Cos (M. Brogie, m. ob.,

The two additional reports are as follows. A first basic bird reported with minimal details at Gavin’s Point Dam in South Dakota and Cedar Co, Nebraska 6 Dec 1998 (Tallman 2002) was not accepted by NOURC (Jorgensen 2001). This is a very unusual date for this species (or any other Sterna tern) on the Great Plains. Another at Gavin’s Point Dam 20 Oct 2012 lacked sufficient detail for NOURC acceptance (Brogie 2013). The identity of one photographed at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 13 May 2018 was judged “inconclusive” by NOURC (Brogie 2019); however only one of several experts judged it a Common Tern rather than an Arctic Tern (Silcock,

Comments: Most reports from neighboring states are in the periods 12 May-18 Jun (10) and 10 Sep-9 Oct (16), corresponding with those from Nebraska, but there is a single Aug record, a late Oct record, and two Nov records. Nearest breeding records are in Montana, where an isolated pair was discovered nesting 1998-2000 (Dinsmore and Jorgensen 2000).  Inland records during migration raise the possibility that at least some central Arctic breeders might follow an inland route; records late May to mid-Jun near Ottawa, Canada suggested movement from the Upper St Lawrence River to James Bay (Hatch 2020).


NOURC: Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)


Photograph (top) of an Arctic Tern at Marsh Duck WMA, York Co 31 May 2015 by Joel G. Jorgensen.

Literature Cited

Brogie, M.A. 2004. 2003 (15th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 72: 59-65.

Brogie, M.A. 2013. 2012 (24th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR: 81: 120-130.

Brogie, M.A. 2016. 2015 (27th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 84: 138-150.

Brogie, M.A. 2019. 2018 (30th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 87: 96-109.

Dinsmore, S.J. 2000. First record of an Arctic Tern for Nebraska. NBR 68: 176-177.

Dinsmore, S.J., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2000. Arctic Terns Nesting in Montana: First Modern Interior Breeding Records for the Lower 48 United States. North American Birds 55: 127-131.

Hatch, J.J., M. Gochfeld, J. Burger, and E.F.J. Garcia. 2020. Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2003. 2001 (13th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 71: 97-102.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2002. 2002 (sic; =2000). (12th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 70: 84-90.

Silcock, W.R. 2006. Summer Field Report, June-July 2006. NBR 74: 78-95.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2020. Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 28 Dec 2020