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Sandwich tern

Thalasseus sandvicensis

Photo: Sandwich tern
Weights and measures
Length from 37 to 43 cm
State of endangerment
Animal description
The Sandwich Tern, scientifically known as Thalasseus sandvicensis, is a slender, medium-sized species of seabird that belongs to the tern family. With its graceful flight, elegant appearance, and distinctive foraging behavior, this bird is a fascinating subject of study and observation for bird enthusiasts and ornithologists alike.

Adult Sandwich Terns are recognizable by their long, narrow wings and relatively short tails. They have a body length that typically ranges from 37 to 43 centimeters (14.5 to 17 inches) and a wingspan that extends between 85 to 97 centimeters (33 to 38 inches). One of the most striking features of the adult Sandwich Tern is its long, slender black bill that is tipped with a distinctive yellow color, which is especially prominent during the breeding season. Their heads are adorned with a black cap, which contrasts sharply with their white forehead and cheeks during the breeding season. Outside of the breeding season, the black cap becomes patchier, revealing more of their white plumage.

The upper parts of a Sandwich Tern's body, including the back and wings, display a beautiful pale grey color, while the underparts are predominantly white. This coloration provides a degree of camouflage against the sky and sea, aiding them in their hunting expeditions. Their legs and feet are black, adding to their distinctive appearance.

Sandwich Terns are migratory birds, breeding in coastal colonies across Europe and North America, and wintering in the warmer waters of the Caribbean, South America, and the west coast of Africa. They prefer sandy or shingle beaches for nesting, where they lay one to three eggs in a scrape on the ground. Both parents share responsibilities for incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

Their diet mainly consists of small fish, which they catch by performing spectacular aerial dives into the water. Sandwich Terns are known for their exceptional flying skills, including their ability to hover mid-air before plunging down to snatch their prey with remarkable precision.

The call of the Sandwich Tern is a sharp, high-pitched "kerrrrrik" sound, which becomes a more drawn-out "kear-ik" when they are in groups, contributing to the lively atmosphere of their breeding colonies.

Despite facing threats from habitat loss, human disturbance, and climate change, which can impact their breeding sites and food availability, the Sandwich Tern is currently listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Conservation efforts are ongoing to ensure the protection of their habitats and to monitor their population trends.

In summary, the Sandwich Tern is a remarkable bird with a distinctive appearance and fascinating behaviors, making it a beloved subject among bird watchers and an important species for biodiversity in coastal ecosystems.
Map of occurrence
Photo: Sandwich tern - occurrence
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