Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis   [Latham, 1787]

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Order: Charadriiformes Family: Sternidae
BTO Codes: TE, SANTE EURING No: 6110
Number in Britain: 11 thousand Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status:
European: 2 Concern, most in Europe; Depleted
Global: (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor
Subspecies: sandvicensis (BW), acuflavida (V) recorded in Britain (of 3 subsp. in the world)
Length: 38 cm Wingspan: 100 cm Weight: M/F: 250 g    
Scientific name from: Old English: stearn=a tern and after Sandwich, Kent (UK)
World Distribution: BREEDS: Europe, WINTERS: south to s Africa & India
Habitat: Sandy seacoasts, in winter estuaries
Diet: Mostly fish by plunge-diving
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos BTO ID Workshop

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: JNCC Seabird Monitoring Programme
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore   
British Population Size:
    Summer: 11 thousand Pairs in 2000
    First Record: Kent, 1784 [Fossil evidence from
    Latest Survey: Mitchell, P.I. et al. (2004) Seabird populations of Britain and Ireland Poyser, London
    Conservation Status: AMBER because Species of European Concern, Recent Breeding Range Decline (1969-2007), Localised Breeding Population,
   Previous Assessments: 2002-2007 AMBER     1996-2001 AMBER  
   Races of Concern: sandvicensis AMBER (Recent Decline)
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    No habitat data from BBS
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries  and summary map from Time to Fly (in pop-up windows)
Average Day of First Arrival: 27 Mar
European Population Size:
    Summer: 67 to 100 thousand pairs
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: WBD(I), Bern(III), Bonn(II*), AEWA
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack
Summary text from Seabird 2000 (warning: link to large pdf)

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 51 x 36 mm Egg Weight: 35.0 g (of which 6 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 37
Clutch Size: 1 - 2 eggs
Incubation: 21- 29 days   by the: Male + Female
Fledging: 28 - 30days as: Semi-precocial, downy
First Clutches Laid: Unavailable
Number of Broods: 1
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.898 ± 0.029       
Juvenile Survival: 0.358 (in First-Year)  
Age at First Breeding: 3 years Typical Lifespan: 12 years
Maximum Recorded Age: 30 years 9 months 14 days (set in 1998)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: D2
Wing Length Adult: 305.8 ± 6.9 Range 295 - 316 mm, N =30
Juvenile: 298.1 ± 6.9 285 - 305 mm, N =24
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: Insufficient Data
Weight Adult: 238.9 ± 14.47 Range 214.0 - 261.0 g , N =32
Juvenile: 226.2 ± 17.65 198.0 - 253.0 g , N =46
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: Insufficient Data
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Previously Thalasseus sandvicensis, Has Included Sterna acuflavida 
Gaelic: Steàrnag-mhòr Welsh: Morwennol Bigddu
Danish: Splitterne Dutch: Grote stern
Finnish: Riuttatiira French: Sterne caugek
German: Brandseeschwalbe Hungarian: Kenti csér
Icelandic: Þaraþerna Irish: Geabhróg Scothdhubh
Italian: Beccapesci Norwegian: Splitterne
Polish: Rybitwa czubata Portuguese: Garajau-comum
Spanish: Charrán patinegro Swedish: Kentsk tärna

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Marples, G. & Marples, A. 1934 The sea terns or sea swallows Country Life Books, London [598.616 MAR]
   Cabot, D. & Nisbet, I. 2013 Terns Collins, London [598.616 CAB]
See Also:
Find scientific papers on Google Scholar or Scirus by clicking the icon
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides
All About Birds (from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)