The life of Sooty Terns

The life of Sooty Terns

How do birds find their tiny home islands in the middle of vast oceans?

Sooty Terns are found in tropical and subtropical oceans around the globe. The striking black and white birds spend most of their lives at sea, where they feed on small fish, squid and crabs. They only come ashore to breed, when they form huge colonies of up to a million individuals.

While almost all populations breed at twelve-month intervals, the birds on Asuncion in the Atlantic do so every nine months. What this difference is all about is still unclear. With the Icarus transmitters, we want to solve this mystery and find out how Sooty Terns navigate over the vast oceans and find their way back to their home island. We also want to know if young terns really live exclusively in the air for four years and where they fly to.

Animal: Sooty Terns

Location: Asuncion, Polynesia and Seychelles

Contact: Martin Wikelski, MPI of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, Germany; Chris Feare, project leader on Bird Island (Seychelles)

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