Arctic terns have one of the longest migrations of any animal on—or above—the Earth. These small, inconspicuous seabirds fly from the Arctic to the Antarctic every year . . . and then they fly back. The arctic tern's wings are ideally adapted for such long flights.
Arctic terns have "high aspect-ratio" wings. Aspect ratio is a mathematical formula calculated by dividing the square of the wingspan by the total wing area. (This formula is used to calculate the aspect ratio of aircraft wings as well as the wings of birds, bats, and other flying creatures.)
High aspect-ratio wings are long and narrow, ideal for slow, usually low-altitude flight. Birds with high aspect-ratio wings often glide and soar over long distances.
Arctic terns are seabirds that feed primarily on fish. How do high aspect-ratio wings complement this feeding pattern?
High aspect-ratio wings are common to many birds with long migration patterns. Why is this wing type beneficial to these birds?
What types of aircraft do you think use high aspect-ratio wings?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry adapt Verb
to adjust to new surroundings or a new situation.
vehicle able to travel and operate above the ground.
the distance above sea level.
Encyclopedic Entry: altitude Antarctic Noun
region at Earth's extreme south, encompassed by the Antarctic Circle.
region at Earth's extreme north, encompassed by the Arctic Circle.
Encyclopedic Entry: Arctic arctic tern Noun
small bird that migrates from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
aspect ratio Noun
in aeronautics, the ratio of the square of an object's wingspan to its total wing area (planform).
to reach a conclusion by mathematical or logical methods.
a general fact or rule expressed in letters and symbols.
not easily noticed.
movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.
the distance between the tips of a bird's wings when stretched out.