Fun Sandwich Tern Facts For Kids

Ritwik Bhuyan
May 03, 2023 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Shray Sharma
Sandwich Tern facts about seabirds that are often seen in nesting grounds along with Royal Terns and Black-headed gulls.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.4 Min

The Sandwich Tern, Thalasseus sandvicensis, earlier came under the genus Sterna, which is a genus for typical terns. The bird with the crest had the scientific name Sterna sandvicensis but was later put into the genus Thalasseus.

The Sandwich Tern is a seabird in the family of Laridae. They interbreed with the lesser crested terns, which is very common for the Sandwich Terns. Like all terns in the genus Thalasseus, the Sandwich Terns feed by diving into the sea for fish.

The Sandwich Tern is silent most of the time and can always be seen flying along the coastline and diving into the waters for food. The Sandwich Tern yearly migration includes flying to winter grounds from the summer breeding grounds.

The Sandwich Tern has a slim black bill with a yellow tip and is very graceful in flight. They are much larger than typical terns and much smaller than Royal terns. The tern (sandwich) is even smaller than the Caspian terns.

The Sandwich Terns are found typically with the Royal Terns in their habitats and colonies and are thought to be the Royal Tern's partners. Although, the tern (sandwich) nests in mixed colonies with the Royal birds, they are less numerous. They are also found among the black-headed gulls.

Birds constitute much of our habitats in the world. Do you want to know about the beautiful Magnolia Warbler and the Purple Sandpiper? Read some fun facts about these birds only on the Kidadl website.

Sandwich Tern Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Sandwich Tern?

The Sandwich Tern is a type of seabird found in the North American states and some countries of South America.

What class of animal does a Sandwich Tern belong to?

The Sandwich Terns fall under the class of Aves in the kingdom of Animalia.

How many Sandwich Terns are there in the world?

The population of the Sandwich Tern is estimated to be around 460,000–500,000 individuals currently. There is no immediate danger to their population as the birds' range extends from 100,000–1,000,000 km2.

Where does a Sandwich Tern live?

This species of terns in the summer has been found on sandy beaches and the coast of south and east of England. With nests and colonies on the ground as the habitat, Sandwich Terns are present in Ireland in the summer from March to September, and sometimes in the winter.

The nesting months are usually in southern Europe and Africa.

The birds are found all over the world. The breeding season summer months are spent in select locations in Europe, southwestern Asia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.

In North America, they are found on the Gulf Coast of Mexico and the US in the winter and along the Atlantic coast during the summer months. The Gulf Coast of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast have the highest visible numbers of species.

With the summer plumage seen in the habitat, Sandwich Tern birds throng the Atlantic Coast of the United States of America with a very big population. Once seen mostly in the Florida beaches, the population has remained constant in the areas in Florida.

These birds are known to inhabit large inland lakes. The states of Virginia in the US, along with Chile, and Argentina are places these species are seen. These birds also exist in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The wildlife habitat of this bird is vast.

What is a Sandwich Tern's habitat?

These medium-sized terns are found near coastal waters, jetties, and beaches. They favor warm water areas near coastal areas. Their wildlife habitats also include fairly shallow areas like bays and estuaries near beaches and mudflats. Nests are made in coastal lagoons and offshore on sandy islands, beaches, and sand bars.

There have been instances of these birds leaving their habitats and traveling 10-15 km per day in flight. Their flight is to search for food, and these species of birds have also been found to travel 70 km in a day.

There also have been cases when the black-headed gulls steal eggs and prey on the medium-sized Sandwich Terns.

Who do Sandwich Terns live with?

Sterna sandvicensis or the Sandwich Tern is not known to form large groups. Instead, they form small flocks and are often found foraging for food alone. They are also seen living with other bird species in the nesting islands, like the gulls and other species of terns.

How long does a Sandwich Tern live?

The average lifespan of Sandwich Tern ranges from 18-22 years. The oldest recorded age is 24 years and two months.

How do they reproduce?

These species are known to mate in pairs within large colonies in nesting areas. The nesting areas include nest sites of different species.

Black-headed gulls are mostly like companions of the Florida bird. The bird does not search for new grounds, they usually arrive after other gulls and terns have reached the nesting colonies during the breeding season.

The gulls and tern birds guide the Sandwich Terns to the nesting ground. The male species are known to show courtship displays which include catching one or more fish and placing them in its bill. This fish is presented to the female bird.

After the initial presentation, the adult birds are found in flight. After the flight display, the copulation between the male and female is conducted.

Nest sites are higher above the high tide line and mating adult birds usually abandon the nest sites if vegetation grows in the range. The nest is usually concave-shaped. The breeding season sees the females lay one to three eggs.

They are incubated for 21-29 days. The young after hatching may leave the nest after 7-14 days to form a group (called creche) when the parents are absent.

The young recognize the parents by voice and leave the group for food when they young hear the adult approach. Flight is achieved by the young after 28-35 days. Apart from the group, the young bird lives with their parents for four months.

The first-winter birds or the young ones are not usually able to catch food themselves, unlike the adult birds. They need practice which is done by watching the adult dive and catch the prey underwater. They start searching for their prey thereafter. Sexual maturity is reached in three to four years.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the Sandwich Tern is categorized as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. This is due to the growing population of these birds, seen even after being generally migratory. A year-round population inhabits coastal Florida in the US.  

Sandwich Tern Fun Facts

What do Sandwich Terns look like?

The Sandwich Terns are medium in size. To identify this family of birds, you have to look for a straight, slender black bill with a yellow tip and a crown with a shaggy short black crest.

The underparts, rump, and tail, shaped like a fork, are white. The long, pointed wings and the back of the body are ash-grey.

The South American race has a yellow or orange bill and bill. The Chinese Crested Tern has a yellow bill with a black tip, opposite the Sandwich Terns. The primary flight feathers grow darker in color during the summer season.

The shaggy black crest or the black cap becomes less extensive with a white crown in winter plumage. The legs and webbed feet are black.

It has also short legs. In the winter plumage, the crown is black and white to almost all white and also has black markings on the wings sometimes.

Juveniles have the same coloration as the non-breeding plumage. This plumage includes a dusky crown, no yellow tip on the bill, and dark markings on the back. The plumage changes as per the distribution too, along with the seasons.

The birds have a black bill with a yellow tip, along with a shaggy black crest and black legs.

How cute are they?

They are beautiful, although they lack a variety of colors.

How do they communicate?

The range of communication varies from sounds and visual cues. Communication is achieved by visual, tactile, auditory, and chemical stimuli. They make a loud grating call when in search of their group or the young.

How big is a Sandwich Tern?

The average length of the Sandwich Tern bird range from 15–17 in (37–43 cm). They have a wingspan that has a range of length from 33–38 in (85-97 cm).

How fast can a Sandwich Tern move?

The average speed that has been calculated for the Sandwich Tern is 43.5 mph. The maximum speed recorded is 56.5 mph.

How much does a Sandwich Tern weigh?

The Sandwich Tern average weight ranges from 0.4-0.66 lb (180-300 g). When the eggs hatch, the young weigh 22-24 g.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female sexes have not been given different names.

What would you call a baby Sandwich Tern?

A baby Sandwich Tern is called a juvenile.

What do they eat?

The Sandwich Tern is known to feed on fish of different kinds, eel, and squid. They are seen flying a few meters above the water to identify their prey.

They aim their beaks downwards toward the prey and hover. They dive-bomb into the water to catch the fish after hovering. The young are taught to identify the prey as they are not most successful in the first few years.

Are they poisonous?

They are not at all poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

Although they have no immediate concern according to their conservation status, these birds are not meant to be kept as pets. They need their natural habitats to grow and migrate. We should try our best to work for the conservation of their homes all over the world.

Did you know...

Sometimes, they are found to feed on insects too, as well as fish.

How did the Sandwich Tern get its name?

Sandwich Terns were first discovered in the town of Sandwich in County Kent England. The birds are named after the town.

Sandwich Tern migration route

The migration depends on the position of the breeding grounds. It can be southward or northward. The Sandwich Terns breed in western Europe and travel south along the west coast of Africa.

Similarly, the species found in the black sea, move towards the Mediterranean. The winter for the species found in the Caspian Sea migrates to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. The summer-breeding North American species find their winter grounds towards the south of the Caribbean and downwards to Central and South America.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our blackpoll warbler interesting facts and white hawk facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Sandwich tern coloring pages.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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Fact-checked by Shray Sharma

Bachelor of Technology specializing in Computer Science Engineering

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Shray SharmaBachelor of Technology specializing in Computer Science Engineering

As an aspiring web and app developer, Shray has a passion for working with promising startups. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Maharaja Surajmal Institute Of Technology while gaining experience in digital marketing. Shray has already earned a Google Analytics Certification and is well-equipped to handle analytics and data management tasks. He has also served as a marketing manager at Parallax Virtual Arts, where he oversaw the company's social media, content, and SEO strategies. Shray's goal is to create engaging content that resonates with audiences and offers valuable insights.

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