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Sandwich Tern Identification

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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

    • 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.