(40-45 cm (16-18 inches) total length) very white tern with a dark
crest. Can be distinguished from similar Atlantic terns by its all
black, yellow- tipped bill. Only other adult plumaged white tern with a
black bill is the Gull-billed Tern. The Gull-billed tern's bill is not
slender and lacks the yellow tip. In flight the yellow tip of Sandwich
Tern’s bill may not show, making the bill appear as if it has a square
end. Cayenne Terns have yellow bills, legs and feet. For these and
other terns in difficult to identify plumages, note the colors of the
legs, feet and bills.
3rd to 4th summer. Can live to 23-24 years of age. Black crested, black
billed, white tern. Legs and feet also black. Non-breeding adult with
reduced cap, forehead white.
similar to adults but have gray backs, feathers tipped with brown.
Alternative Common Names
Charran de sandwich, Charran de
Cbot, Charran patinegro, Gaviota de pico Amarillo (Cuba), Gaviota oico
agudo (Dominican Republic), Gaviota piquiaguda (Puerto Rico).
the genus Thalasseus
with other crested terns. Two subspecies, the
nominate is European, and S.
s. acuflavida is the New World race. Many
consider the Cayenne Tern, S.
(s.) eurygaatha, of the southern Caribbean
to be the third subspecies. It is treated separately here, mostly
because it is simpler for us to discuss distributions and conservation
issues in individual accounts.
nesting colonies and near coast, does not normally feed far at sea.
breeds in North America, Central America, and Eurasia. It is named
after one of its European breeding sites, the Isle of Sandwich. Two
subspecies are recognized one each in the Old and New World, another
known as the Cayenne Tern, is not common and is restricted to the coast
of South America and the lower Caribbean. Many consider it to be a
separate species (see that account)
in New World from Virginia southward and along the Gulf coast. Also
West Indies, islands and off Central America. This is a coastal
foraging species and excluding migration periods it is almost never
seen more than 20 km from land.
coast and in bays. Seldom more than 2 km from land. Roost at night on
sand bars, beaches and reefs. Prey items fishes, squid, and
crustaceans. In Puerto Rico feeds mainly on sardines and dwarf herring.
Vertical dives from 5-7 meters into
In shallow water dives are at acute angels, sometimes from hovering
flight. Will follow trawlers for discarded fish and diving pelicans for
fish that are stirred up by the foraging pelicans.
colony in the West Indies was found in 1965.
Breeding colonies begin to form in late April and early May. Nest a
simple scrape, sometimes lined with pieces of shell or wrack. Generally
lays only one egg, occasionally two. Eggs are pale with variable
markings. Incubation 21-29 days. Chicks move away from nest in first
2-3 weeks after hatching and form crèche, will leave nest earlier if
subject to disturbance. First flight 25-28 days, dispersal from
colonies soon after young are fledged. Colonies vacant by late August
and early September. Young accompany adults to near by feeding areas.
Total time adults spend in nesting colonies (pre-laying to post nesting
dispersal) is about 52 days. Colony size fluctuates, in Puerto Rico
between 23 and 450 pairs from 1990-1994.
World Sandwich Tern, Sterna
Atlantic States (Virginia)
and Buckley 1984
and Buckley 1984
America (islands off coast)
Halewyn and Norton 1984
et al. 2002
is not a
species of conservation concern in the West Indies. Formerly in western
Caribbean off Belize but now extirpated there. Also recently extirpated
from several cays in US and British Virgin Islands.
species has been extending its range southward from coastal North
America into the West Indies for the last 30-40 years, this tern cannot
be considered a conservation priority. Nonetheless, colonies disserve
protection, and at many sites these terns are nesting with, or adjacent
to, seabirds with conservation needs. Like other seabirds, colonies of
Sandwich Terns need protection from development, disturbance, and
introduced predators. Closing nesting cays from visitation during the
breeding season should be encouraged. Laws prohibiting egging need to
studies to determine the relationship of Sandwich Terns to Cayenne
Terns are needed.
and F. G. Buckley. 1984. Seabirds of the North and Middle Atlantic
coast of the United States: their status and conservation. Pages 101-133
in J. P. Croxall, P. G. Evans and R. W. Schreiber (eds.).
Conservation of the World's Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
R. B. and P. A. Buckley. 1984. Status and conservation of seabirds in
the southeastern United States. Pages
135-155 in J. P. Croxall, P. G.
Evans and R. W. Schreiber (eds). Status and Conservation of the World's
Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
J. A., et al. 2002. Waterbird Conservation for the Americas: the North
American Waterbird Conservation Plan, Version 1. Waterbird Conservation
for the Americas, Washington, DC, USA., 78 pp.
R. L. 2000. Status and conservation of Sandwich and Cayenne Terns in
the West Indies. Pages
80-83 in E. A. Schreiber and D. S. Lee (eds.)
Status and Conservation of West Indian Seabirds. Society of Caribbean
Ornithology, Special Publication Number 1.225 pp.
D. 1999. Sandwich Tern (Sterna
sandvicensis). in The Birds of North
America, No. 405 (A. Poole and F. Gill. Eds.). The Birds of North
America, Inc., Philadelphia.
Halewyn, R. and R. Norton. 1984.The status and conservation of seabirds
in the Caribbean. Pages
169-222 in J. P. Croxall, P. G. Evans and R. W.
Schreiber (eds). Status and Conservation of the World's Seabirds. ICBP
Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
Indian Breeding Seabird Atlas by Will
Mackin and David Lee is licensed
under a Creative
Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License. Based on
work at www.wicbirds.net.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.wicbirds.net.
Citation: Lee, D. S., W. A. Mackin. 2009. Sandwich Tern. West Indian
Breeding Seabird Atlas
<http://www.wicbirds.net/sate.html>. Last Updated: _____.