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To the Moon and Back – Twice!

Thirty years and a million miles later . . .

This amazing bird has been migrating from an island off the coast of northern England to the shores of Antarctica for at least 30 years – a journey of approximately 45,000 miles.

The bird was captured briefly, this summer, after the ring on her leg was spotted. When the staff of the British National Trust later checked the records in their database, it turned out she’d been ringed on June 28, 1980 – more than 30 years ago – by John Walton, a warden for the British National Trust.

The average life expectancy of an Arctic tern is about 13 years. Life can be tough for these birds. On their long, pole-to-pole migrations, they have to avoid predators and storms, and often succumb to lack of food on the journey.

“This bird would have flown close to one million miles, raised any number of chicks, survived predators and storms and still looks in brilliant shape,” Walton told the BBC.

This particular bird, known in the records as CE60645, is not quite the world’s oldest known Arctic tern. That honor is held by a bird who was ringed in the United States and observed again 34 years later. It’s not known if she’s still alive.

“Fingers crossed, this bird is good for another four or five years, which would allow us to take the world record from the Americans,” Walton joked.

The Arctic Tern Migration Map