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Sandwich tern

Sterna Sandvicensis

While similar in size to a black-headed gull, sandwich terns are easily distinguished by their slender wings, forked tail, crested black head and long black pointed bill with a yellow tip.

Named after Sandwich Bay in Kent, these terns are regularly seen around the Solent where breeding numbers have remained steady over the last few years thanks to habitat management and community engagement.

All about sandwich tern

Despite being the largest tern to breed in the UK, sandwich terns are surprisingly gentle, so are often found nesting with the more aggressive black-headed gulls to avoid predation.

Their courtship is both elaborate and noisy with pairs lifting high into the sky, often accompanied by several other birds, before executing a fast, downward dive flying very close to each other, or even on occasion touching.

Though the young fly after 28–30 days, they will continue to be cared for by their parents for a further 3 months.

Local spotlight

The Solent remains a stronghold for breeding sandwich terns.  Whilst these birds are not strictly monogamous, if a pair successfully breeds for 4 years they will probably remain together for life.

Conservation status

UK conservation status is amber as annual productivity is highly variable due mainly to predation.

Did you know?

While most sandwich terns migrate, around 65 birds have been recorded as over-wintering around the UK’s coastline, including the Solent.