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Sandwich Tern

Silhouette TernsTerns
Sandwich TernThalasseus sandvicensis
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Laridae

Basic Description

The Sandwich Tern is a sleek, medium-sized tern with a ragged black crest and a gleaming black bill with a sharp yellow tip. It's smaller and slimmer than a Royal Tern, a species it often nests alongside in busy, shrieking colonies along the barrier islands of the southeastern U.S. (Its broad global range also includes the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and Europe.) Rarely found inland or out to sea, this is a bird of ocean shores and estuaries, where it hunts small schooling fish.

More ID Info
image of range map for Sandwich Tern
Year-roundBreedingMigrationNonbreeding
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Look for Sandwich Terns during summer on sandy beaches and islands of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. They're often mixed in with other terns and gulls, so whether you're watching a flock at rest on a beach or a group in flight over the water, look for a tern that's huskier than a Common Tern but daintier than a Royal. Then zero in and look for the ragged crest and the yellow-tipped, black bill.

Other Names

  • Charrán Patinegro (Spanish)
  • Sterne caugek (French)
  • Cool Facts

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