Volume 47, No. 1

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Interseasonal movements and non-breeding locations of Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus


1USDA Forest Service, Alaska Regional Office, PO Box 21628, Juneau, AK 99802 USA (
2Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, University of Hawai'i Mānoa, 3190 Maile Way St. John 410, Honolulu, HI 96822-2279 USA
3USDA Forest Service, Tongass National Forest, Yakutat Ranger District, 712 Ocean Cape Road, Yakutat, AK 99689 USA
4Spatial Ecosystem Analysis Lab, University of Alaska Southeast, 11120 Glacier Hwy, Juneau, AK 99801 USA


GOLDSTEIN, M.I., DUFFY, D.C., OEHLERS, S., CATTERSON, N., FREDERICK, J. & PYARE, S. 2019. Interseasonal movements and non-breeding locations of Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus. Marine Ornithology 47: 67 - 76

Received 11 April 2018, accepted 5 December 2018

Date Published: 2019/04/15
Date Online: 2019/02/16
Key words: Aleutian Tern, Onychoprion aleuticus, movements, migration, geolocator, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Alaska


Few observations have been made of Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus outside of summer breeding colonies. We aimed to investigate the non-breeding distribution of Aleutian Terns by collating published and unpublished records of observations during the migration and wintering periods, and by implementing a geolocator tracking study at the largest known breeding colony in North America (Yakutat, Alaska). We deployed 114 geolocator tags in 2010 and recovered six tags over the course of six years. Using light level data, we conducted spatial analysis on tern migration cycles from 2010 to 2013. Results revealed one of the longest distance terrestrial vertebrate migrations ever recorded, with a one-way migration distance of  16 000 km between Alaska and the Southeast Asia/Oceania region. We found that core winter ranges occurred in coastal Thailand, the Philippines, three areas within Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Five of the six recovered geolocators contained data spanning multiple years and provided evidence of both wintering- and breeding-site fidelity. Our effort to more completely document the extent of the Aleutian Tern winter range is a foundational step toward understanding both the natural history and the ecological stressors that could affect this under-studied, locally-imperiled seabird.


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