Bird migration and orientation at high latitudes are of special interest because of the difficulties associated with different compass systems in polar areas and because of the considerable differences between flight routes conforming to loxodromes (rhumblines) or orthodromes (great circle routes). Regular and widespread east‐north‐east migration of birds from the northern tundra of Siberia towards North America across the Arctic Ocean (without landmark influences) were recorded by ship‐based tracking radar studies in July and August. Field observations indicated that waders, including species such as Phalaropus fulicarius and Calidris melanotos, dominated, but also terns and skuas may have been involved. Analysis of flight directions in relation to the wind showed that these movements are not caused by wind drift. Assuming possible orientation principles based on celestial or geomagnetic cues, different flight trajectories across the Arctic Ocean were calculated: geographical loxodromes, sun compass routes, magnetic loxodromes and magnetoclinic routes. The probabilities of these four alternatives are evaluated on the basis of both the availability of required orientation cues and the predicted flight paths. This evaluation supports orientation along sun compass routes. Because of the longitudinal time displacement sun compass routes show gradually changing compass courses in close agreement with orthodromes. It is suggested that an important migration link between Siberia and North American stopover sites 1000 to 2500 km apart across the Arctic Ocean has evolved based on sun compass orientation along orthodrome‐like routes.