Visual Search | Wizard | Browse
Bird name:

Sandwich Tern

Thalasseus sandvicensis




Terns (Sternidae)





Euring 5

iBird Ad

Breeding Location:

Beaches, sandy or shingle, Islands, Coasts

Breeding Type:

Monogamous, Colonial

Egg Colour:

Smooth, slightly glossy and tan to pinkish; evenly coated with small brown specks and some spots.

Number of Eggs:

1 - 2

Incubation Days:

21 - 29

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Material:

Scrape lined with stones or plant material.

Nest Location:

On ground hidden by vegetation, in a crevice or cave.




Sandwich Tern: Black-headed Gull-sized tern with long black bill tipped yellow. Crested head has black cap. White neck, underparts, and short, forked tail. Pale grey on back and wings. Wings also have white and darker grey in primaries. Sexes similar. Winter adults like summer birds but with white front and black in primaries. First winter birds have dark grey in tail, dark grey-brown in wings, and lack yellow tip to bill. Juveniles like first winter birds but pale brown barring on back, brown-grey crown, and shorter, grey-brown bill.

Range and Habitat

Sandwich Tern: Summer breeder in the UK & Ireland. Birds arrive at breeding grounds in March and depart for African winter grounds in September. Most breeding areas are found on the southern and east coasts of England, but also the NW tip of Wales and a few spots in Scotland. Prefer sandy beach areas.

Breeding and Nesting

Sandwich Tern: Monogamous, colonial nesters; prefer island nesting sites. Both parents construct scrape on ground. Both incubate one to two eggs for 21 to 29 days, but female is primarily responsible. One brood per breeding season. Both parents care for young, which fledge in 28 to 30 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Sandwich Tern: While offshore they plunge dive for fish like sandeels, sprats and whiting. Also feed on shrimp, squid and other surface-dwelling marine creatures. While inshore they have been reported to eat marine worms as well.


Sandwich Tern: Abrupt whistle, grating "gwit gwit," and "skir-rick." Also yelping "kehk," and slightly reedy "ki-i wii-wii."

Similar Species

Sandwich Tern: Common Tern has more black on head and nape, orange bill with black tip, orange legs, and lacks the crest on the back of the head. Little Tern is smaller, has black-tipped yellow bill, and black-tipped wings.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

The area on top of the head of the bird.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
The primaries are the flight feathers specialized for flight. They are attached to the "hand" equivalent part of the wing.
4 and 6 letter alpha codesX

The four letter common name alpha code is is derived from the first two letters of the common first name and the first two letters of common last name. The six letter species name alpha code is derived from the first three letters of the scientific name (genus) and the first three letters of the scientific name (species). See (1) below for the rules used to create the codes..

Four-letter (for English common names) and six-letter (for scientific names) species alpha codes were developed by Pyle and DeSante (2003, North American Bird-Bander 28:64-79) to reflect A.O.U. taxonomy and nomenclature (A.O.U. 1998) as modified by Supplements 42 (Auk 117:847-858, 2000) and 43 (Auk 119:897-906, 2002). The list has been updated by Pyle and DeSante to reflect changes reported by the A.O.U from 2003 through 2006.


The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) was established in the mid-1990 s as a cooperative project among several federal agencies to improve and expand upon taxonomic data (known as the NODC Taxonomic Code) maintained by the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

To find the ITIS page for a bird species go to the ITIS web site advanced search and report page at You can enter the TSN or the common name of the bird. It will return the ITIS page for that bird. Another way to obtain the ITIS page is to use the Google search engine. Enter the string ITIS followed by the taxonomic ID, for example "ITIS 178041" will return the page for the Allen's Hummingbird.

Parts of a Standing birdX
Head Feathers and MarkingsX
Parts of a Flying birdX