Skip to Content

Sandwich Tern Identification

Looking for ID Help?

Get Instant ID help for 650+ North American birds.

Try Merlin Bird ID

The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    A medium-sized, slender tern with long, thin, sharp bill and long, pointed wings. The tail is medium length with a shallow fork. Adults during the breeding season have a shaggy crest that gives a ragged look to the back of the head.

    Relative Size

    Larger than a Common Tern, smaller than a Royal Tern.

    Relative Sizecrow sizedcrow-sized
    Measurements
    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 13.4-17.7 in (34-45 cm)
      • Weight: 6.3-10.6 oz (180-300 g)
      • Wingspan: 33.1-35.4 in (84-90 cm)

Regional Differences

Ornithologists recognize three subspecies of Sandwich Tern: acuflavidus of the Americas, the similar sandvicensis of Eurasia and Africa, and the yellow- or orange-billed eurygnathus, which nests from Puerto Rico to Argentina. Some ornithologists define these as full species, called Cabot’s Tern, Sandwich Tern, and Cayenne Tern, respectively.

Need Bird ID Help? Try Merlin

Close Merlin