Skip to Content

Sandwich Tern Life History


Habitat ShorelinesSeacoasts, bays, estuaries, and mudflats, occasionally ocean far from land.Back to top


Food FishSmall fish. Some invertebrates.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nesting Facts

Condition at Hatching:Downy, eyes open, able to walk but stays in nest.
Back to top


Behavior Aerial Dive (water)Flies over water with bill pointing down; plunges into water to catch fish.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernSandwich Tern experienced major declines in both the Old and New World during the nineteenth century, due mostly to millinery trade and egg collecting. Recent increases in population size have been noted in most of the bird's range. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental population of 75,000-100,000 breeding birds and rates the species a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Sandwich Tern is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Back to top


Kushlan, J. A., M. J. Steinkamp, K. C. Parsons, J. Capp, M. A. Cruz, M. Coulter, I. Davidson, L. Dickson, N. Edelson, R. Elliott, R. M. Erwin, S. Hatch, S. Kress, R. Milko, S. Miller, K. Mills, R. Paul, R. Phillips, J. E. Saliva, W. Sydeman, J. Trapp, J. Wheeler and K. Wohl (2002). Waterbird conservation for the Americas: The North American waterbird conservation plan, version 1. Washington, DC, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2019). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 1019 Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2019.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Shealer, David, Jeff S. Liechty, Aaron R. Pierce, Peter Pyle and Michael A. Patten. (2016). Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis), version 3.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Back to top

Need Bird ID Help? Try Merlin

Close Merlin