Sandwich Tern

Sterna sandvicensis


The Sandwich tern is a relatively large tern which breeds in colonies on sand and shingle beaches, islands and spits. Sandwich terns feed on fish such as sandeels, sprats and whiting, which they catch by diving into the water.

How to identify

The Sandwich tern is whitish-grey above and white below with a large black cap (the forehead becomes white in winter) and a shaggy, black crest. It has short, black legs and a black bill with a yellow tip. It has a short tail with no 'streamers' (long feathers extending past the main tail).

Where to find it

A summer visitor, nesting on sandy beaches and islands in coastal lagoons scattered all round our coasts.


When to find it

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September

How can people help

Many of the important Sandwich tern colonies in the UK survive because they are on nature reserves specifically looked after for their wildlife value. Local Wildlife Trusts across the country are looking after coastal habitats for the benefit of birds like terns. Ensuring breeding birds are not disturbed and nature reserves are well-managed are just some of the ways we're helping. You can help too: volunteer for The Wildlife Trusts and you could be involved in everything from monitoring populations or raising awareness about nesting birds.

Species information

Common name
Sandwich Tern
Latin name
Sterna sandvicensis
Gulls and seabirds
Length: 36-41cm Wingspan: 1m Weight: 250g Average Lifespan: 12 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.