Species On The Move

As climate change impacts habitats around the world, species are on the move, trying to adapt — and survive.


  • Audubon

About This Species

Caspian terns are big—bigger than any other terns, and as big as a mid-sized gull—and known for their long adolescence. Like the parents urging their millennials out the door, Caspian terns can be seen trailed by their offspring years longer than is typical for a bird. They mostly hunt fish, although they will eat an occasional insect or egg. Though the species seems to be adapting well to climate change, the birds are also on the move. Earlier this summer, researchers were surprised to find a nest of Caspian terns on the shore of a lagoon in northwest Alaska—1,000 miles further north than they had been previously seen.

Caspian Terns

(Photo: Andrew Reding via Flickr)

Source: The Guardian and Audubon's Field Guide

Conservation Status

The Caspian tern is faring relatively well. Its population appears to be stable—even perhaps increasing—and Audubon reports that its range has expanded recently to include southern Alaska, with some outliers apparently ending up even further north.

The Caspian Tern's range
Caspian Terns

(Photo: Mick Thompson)

Source: Audubon's Field Guide

Looking Forward

The Caspian tern's winter range is largely stable, as the terns shift further inland. Where climate change is going to impact the terns more is along its summer range. There are major losses forecast in core areas with currently suitable climates, like the Pacific Northwest. As temperatures climb and precipitation declines in that region, the birds are projected to shift their territory, but it is possible for them to expand their range further north. As they do so, it's unclear what impacts they might have on native species there. 

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