Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Scientific name: Sterna sandvicensis

Did you know: The Sandwich Tern can travel over 4,000 km to its wintering locations, a testament to its remarkable migratory abilities!

What Do Sandwich Terns Look Like? (how to identify them)

Sandwich Terns are a captivating sight with their mostly white plumage contrasted by a striking black cap on their heads. They possess a distinctive black bill tipped with yellow and have short black legs. 

When in flight, one can observe grey wedges on their wingtips and a forked tail. These birds are medium-sized and slender with long, pointed wings, making them a standout species in the UK, especially in nature reserves where they thrive.

Differences Between Male And Female Sandwich Terns

Interestingly, male and female Sandwich Terns share a similar appearance. Both genders boast the same colour patterns, with breeding adults showcasing a pale grey upper body, white underparts, and a black crest. 

The key identifier when looking for Sandwich Terns, is their black bill with a yellow tip. The only notable difference is their size, with males generally being slightly larger than females.

What Do Sandwich Terns Eat?

Primarily, Sandwich Terns feast on fish, including sandeels, sprats, and whiting. They employ a remarkable hunting technique of plunge-diving into the sea to capture their prey, often doing so in large flocks mixed with other seabird species.

Where Do Sandwich Terns Live? (inc. migration info)

Sandwich Terns prefer marine and intertidal habitats as well as wetlands. They breed along the UK coast in dense colonies, ranging from the Isles of Scilly to Orkney. After the breeding season, many embark on a lengthy migration to wintering grounds along the coast of West Africa.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Sandwich Terns)

These birds are known for their loud, grating calls, often described as a kear-ik or kerr ink sound. These vocalisations are a significant aspect of their presence, especially in their breeding colonies.

Fun Sandwich Tern Facts (kid friendly)

  • The Sandwich Tern can change its look! In winter, its forehead turns white.
  • They lay one to three eggs in a simple ground nest.
  • This Tern is larger than a Common Tern but smaller than a Royal Tern.
  • Sandwich Terns are not just good flyers; they’re also excellent divers!
  • Young Sandwich Terns don’t have the yellow tip on their beaks like adults.
  • These Terns can live into their late twenties.
  • They’re part of the Laridae family, which includes gulls and other Terns.
  • Sandwich Terns are named after Sandwich, Kent, but they don’t eat sandwiches!
  • During courtship, the male Tern offers fish to the female as a gift.

Facts About The Sandwich Tern

Diet: Fish such as sandeels, sprats and whiting.
Bird Family: Gulls and terns
Length: 36-41cm
Wingspan: 95-105cm
Weight: 210-260g
Scientific Name: Sterna sandvicensis

The Sandwich Tern Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

Sandwich Tern Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile