Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern Breeding Adult
Sandwich Tern – Breeding Adult
Sandwich Tern Nonbreeding Adult
Sandwich Tern – Nonbreeding Adult
Sandwich Tern Juvenile
Sandwich Tern – Juvenile

Sandwich Terns are recognizable for their shaggy black crests, long black bills with yellow tips, pale gray backs and wings, white underparts, and black legs. 

Breeding adult Sandwich Terns look similar to least terns but are larger.

Nonbreeding adult Sandwich Terns have white foreheads with little or hardly any crests. 

Juveniles have dark but sometimes yellowish bills and legs, dark rear crown patches, mottled black and gray backs, white underparts, and dark tips to their tails. 

  • Thalasseus sandvicensis
  • Length: 13.4 – 17.7 in (34 – 45 cm)
  • Weight: 6.3 – 10.6 oz (180 – 300 g)
  • Wingspan: 33.1 – 35. 4in (84 – 90 cm)


Sandwich Terns are year-round residents along the Atlantic Coast of the US, Cental and South America. They are also found in Europe, Central Asia, and Africa.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Sandwich Terns flocking together in dense colonies on coasts, jetties, islands, and beaches. They prefer being in shallow areas like bays and estuaries. They also inhabit large freshwater lakes close to the coast. 

Sandwich Terns plunge dive from the air into the water to eat small schooling fish, squid, shrimps, and insects. They sometimes follow fishing trawlers to pick off fish and shrimp that rise to the surface. 

Sandwich Tern Calls:


Nests of Sandwich Terns are on sandy barrier beaches with hardly any vegetation but close to the water. Adults dig a shallow scrape in the sand and line it with shells and debris. The female lays one or two eggs that they both incubate for 3 to 4 weeks.

The young leave the nest and may join a “creche” or a group of young in a colony. Their parents still feed them and they come out when they hear their parents’ call. 

Fun Fact:

Sandwich Terns are named after the town of Sandwich in England where they were first discovered.