28 Birds of the Arctic: Exploring Arctic Bird Species and Seabirds

Birds of the Arctic Arctic Bird Species and Seabirds
Birds of the Arctic Arctic Bird Species and Seabirds

The Arctic is home to many amazing birds. From tiny songbirds to large seabirds, Arctic birds are tough and can live in very cold places. Let’s learn about some of the cool birds you can find in the Arctic!

What Makes Arctic Birds Special?

Arctic birds have to deal with harsh weather and long winters. They have some special traits that help them survive:

  • Thick feathers to stay warm
  • Feet that don’t freeze easily
  • The ability to find food even when it’s very cold
  • Many migrate south for the winter

Some birds only visit the Arctic in summer to breed. Others stay all year round. The Arctic has fewer bird species than warmer places, but the birds there are very special.

Common Arctic Bird Groups


Seabirds spend most of their time out on the ocean. They come to land to nest and raise chicks. Some common Arctic seabirds are:

  • Gulls
  • Terns
  • Auks
  • Fulmars
  • Cormorants


These birds live near the coast or on tundra. They often have long legs for wading. Arctic shorebirds include:

  • Sandpipers
  • Plovers
  • Phalaropes


Ducks, geese, and swans are types of waterfowl. Many nest in the Arctic tundra near ponds and lakes. Examples are:

  • Eider ducks
  • Snow geese
  • Tundra swans

Land Birds

Some birds live mainly on land in the Arctic. These include:

28 Arctic Bird Species to Know

Let’s look at some of the most interesting Arctic birds:

1. Arctic Tern

The Arctic tern is famous for its very long migration. It flies from the Arctic all the way to Antarctica each year! That’s over 44,000 miles round trip.

Key facts:

  • Small, white and gray bird
  • Red beak and feet
  • Eats small fish and krill

2. Snowy Owl

This big white owl is a year-round Arctic resident. It hunts small animals on the tundra.

Key facts:

  • Large owl with white feathers
  • Yellow eyes
  • Eats lemmings and other small mammals

3. Atlantic Puffin

Puffins are cute seabirds with colorful beaks. They nest in cliffs and dive for fish.

Key facts:

  • Black and white feathers
  • Large, colorful beak
  • Nicknamed “sea parrot”

4. Ivory Gull

This all-white gull lives farther north than any other bird. It often follows polar bears to eat leftover seal meat.

Key facts:

  • Pure white feathers
  • Black eyes and feet
  • Scavenges and hunts for food

5. Little Auk

Also called dovekie, this small seabird nests in huge colonies. It dives for small sea creatures.

Key facts:

  • Tiny black and white auk
  • Short neck and stubby bill
  • Can dive over 100 feet deep

6. Snow Goose

Huge flocks of snow geese nest on the Arctic tundra. They migrate south for winter.

Key facts:

  • White feathers with black wingtips
  • Pink bill and feet
  • Eats grass and other plants

7. Common Eider

This large sea duck is prized for its soft down feathers. It nests on coasts and islands.

Key facts:

  • Large, bulky duck
  • Males are black and white, females are brown
  • Collects seaweed and down to make nests

8. Arctic Skua

Also called parasitic jaeger, this seabird chases other birds to steal their food.

Key facts:

  • Dark brown feathers
  • Long, pointed wings
  • Very aggressive

9. Glaucous Gull

This is one of the largest gulls. It lives year-round in the Arctic.

Key facts:

  • Pale gray and white feathers
  • Pink legs and feet
  • Eats fish, birds, and eggs

10. Black Guillemot

This seabird can be found near coasts all around the Arctic. It dives for fish.

Key facts:

  • Black feathers with white wing patches
  • Bright red feet
  • Nests in rock crevices

11. Thick-billed Murre

Also called Brünnich’s guillemot, this auk nests on cliffs in huge colonies.

Key facts:

  • Black and white feathers
  • Thick, pointed bill
  • Can dive over 300 feet deep

12. Northern Fulmar

This seabird looks like a gull but is related to albatrosses. It can live for over 50 years.

Key facts:

  • Gray and white feathers
  • Tube-shaped nostrils on bill
  • Can spit smelly oil to defend itself

13. Red Phalarope

This small shorebird spins in circles while swimming to stir up food.

Key facts:

  • Gray and white in winter, red in summer
  • Lobed toes for swimming
  • Females are larger and more colorful than males

14. Common Redpoll

This small songbird can survive very cold temperatures. It eats seeds from plants.

Key facts:

  • Brown and white feathers
  • Red patch on forehead
  • Flocks together in winter

15. Rock Ptarmigan

This grouse changes color with the seasons. It’s brown in summer and white in winter.

Key facts:

  • Feathered feet for walking on snow
  • Changes plumage color
  • Eats buds, leaves, and berries

16. Long-tailed Duck

Also called oldsquaw, this sea duck dives very deep for food. It has a musical call.

Key facts:

  • Long tail feathers on males
  • Changes plumage several times a year
  • Can dive over 200 feet deep

17. Arctic Loon

Also called black-throated diver, this water bird has a haunting call.

Key facts:

  • Black head and throat in summer
  • Red eyes
  • Nests near freshwater lakes

18. Sabine’s Gull

This small gull nests on tundra and winters at sea. It has a forked tail.

Key facts:

  • Gray, white, and black feathers
  • Yellow-tipped black bill
  • Catches insects in flight

19. Red-throated Loon

This loon has a red throat patch in summer. It can take off from very small ponds.

Key facts:

  • Gray feathers with white spots
  • Long, pointed bill
  • Flies with neck stretched out

20. Barnacle Goose

This goose nests on cliffs in the high Arctic. It migrates to northern Europe for winter.

Key facts:

  • Black neck and white face
  • Named for old myth about how it reproduced
  • Grazes on grass and other plants

21. King Eider

This large sea duck has very colorful breeding plumage. It dives for mussels and crabs.

Key facts:

  • Males have blue, orange, and green head
  • Thick neck and sloping forehead
  • Nests on tundra near water

22. Pomarine Skua

This seabird chases other birds to make them drop food. It has twisted tail feathers.

Key facts:

  • Brown feathers
  • Larger than Arctic skua
  • Eats lemmings when on land

23. Ivory Gull

This all-white gull lives in the high Arctic. It often follows polar bears.

Key facts:

  • Pure white feathers
  • Black eyes and feet
  • Scavenges and hunts for food

24. Ross’s Gull

This small, pink-tinted gull is rare. It nests in Siberia and sometimes visits North America.

Key facts:

  • Pale gray feathers with pink tint
  • Wedge-shaped tail
  • Nicknamed “rose gull”

25. Gyrfalcon

This is the largest falcon in the world. It hunts birds and mammals in the Arctic.

Key facts:

  • Gray or white feathers
  • Very strong and fast
  • Nests on cliffs

26. Snow Bunting

This small songbird nests in rock crevices. Males are bright white in summer.

Key facts:

  • White and black feathers
  • Orange-yellow bill
  • Nicknamed “snowflake”

27. Lapland Longspur

This songbird nests on the ground in the tundra. It has a musical song.

Key facts:

  • Streaked brown feathers
  • Black face and throat on males
  • Long hind claw on feet

28. Red Knot

This shorebird makes one of the longest migrations of any bird. It flies from the Arctic to South America.

Key facts:

  • Gray feathers in winter, red in summer
  • Long bill for probing mud
  • Can fly over 9,000 miles without stopping

Table Featuring List of 28 Arctic Birds:

Here is a comprehensive table featuring 28 Arctic birds, detailing their habitats, key features, and fun facts:

Bird NameHabitatKey FeaturesFun Fact
Arctic TernCoastalSmall, white and gray, red beak and feetTravels over 44,000 miles round trip from Arctic to Antarctica each year
Snowy OwlTundraLarge, white feathers, yellow eyesHunts small mammals like lemmings
Atlantic PuffinCliffsBlack and white feathers, colorful beakNicknamed “sea parrot”
Ivory GullPack icePure white feathers, black eyes and feetOften follows polar bears to eat leftover seal meat
Little AukCoastalTiny, black and white, short neck and stubby billCan dive over 100 feet deep
Snow GooseTundraWhite feathers with black wingtips, pink billMigrates in huge flocks
Common EiderCoastalLarge, black and white (males), brown (females)Prized for soft down feathers
Arctic SkuaCoastalDark brown feathers, long pointed wingsKnown for stealing food from other birds
Glaucous GullCoastalPale gray and white, pink legs and feetOne of the largest gulls
Black GuillemotCoastalBlack with white wing patches, bright red feetNests in rock crevices
Thick-billed MurreCliffsBlack and white, thick pointed billCan dive over 300 feet deep
Northern FulmarCliffsGray and white, tube-shaped nostrilsCan live over 50 years and spit smelly oil for defense
Red PhalaropeOceanGray and white in winter, red in summerSpins in circles to stir up food
Common RedpollTundraBrown and white, red patch on foreheadSurvives very cold temperatures
Rock PtarmiganTundraFeathered feet, changes color with seasonsBrown in summer, white in winter
Long-tailed DuckCoastalLong tail feathers (males), changes plumageCan dive over 200 feet deep
Arctic LoonFreshwater lakesBlack head and throat in summer, red eyesKnown for its haunting call
Sabine’s GullTundraGray, white, and black, yellow-tipped black billHas a forked tail
Red-throated LoonFreshwater lakesGray with white spots, long pointed billCan take off from very small ponds
Barnacle GooseTundraBlack neck, white faceNamed after an old myth about its reproduction
King EiderCoastalColorful breeding plumage, thick neckForms flocks up to 100,000 individuals
Pomarine SkuaCoastalBrown feathers, twisted tail feathersLarger than Arctic skua, eats lemmings on land
Ross’s GullCoastalPale gray with pink tint, wedge-shaped tailRare and nicknamed “rose gull”
GyrfalconCliffsGray or white, very strong and fastLargest falcon in the world
Snow BuntingRock crevicesWhite and black, orange-yellow billNicknamed “snowflake”
Lapland LongspurTundraStreaked brown, black face and throat (males)Has a long hind claw on feet
Red KnotCoastalGray in winter, red in summer, long billFlies over 9,000 miles without stopping
White-tailed EagleCliffsWide wingspan, large bird of preyLargest eagle in Europe, closely related to bald eagles

This table provides a detailed overview of various Arctic birds, highlighting their habitats, key characteristics, and interesting facts about each species.

Protecting Arctic Birds

Many Arctic birds face threats from climate change and human activity. As the Arctic warms, it changes the habitat these birds need. Oil spills, plastic pollution, and overfishing also harm Arctic birds.

To help Arctic birds, we can:

  • Reduce our use of fossil fuels
  • Use less plastic
  • Support wildlife conservation efforts
  • Learn more about Arctic birds and share what we know

Arctic birds are amazing animals that can survive in a harsh environment. By learning about them, we can better appreciate and protect these special creatures of the north.


The Arctic is a remarkable region with a diverse array of bird species. These birds have adapted to the extreme conditions and play a crucial role in the Arctic ecosystem. Whether you are a bird lover or just curious about Arctic wildlife, these 28 birds offer a glimpse into the fascinating world of Arctic birdlife.

Picture of Nathan


I absolutely adore birds, especially lovebirds, and I’m passionate about exploring forests for bird watching. I wanted to create a space for fellow bird lovers to connect, learn, and share experiences.