Sandwich Tern

Most Sandwich Terns migrate to the West African coast for the winter months, but some stay around the coast of Southern Spain and may be seen around the Guadiaro Estuary and further west on the Atlantic coast around Tarifa.

Sandwich Tern – Sturnus sandvicensis 

The Sandwich Tern is a medium-large tern, 37–43 cm (15–17 in) long with an 85–97 cm (33–38 in) wingspan, which is unlikely to be confused within most of its range. It is a vocal bird; its call is a characteristic loud grating kier-vek or kerr ink.

The Sandwich Tern’s  upperwings are pale grey and its underparts white, making the bird appear conspicuously pale in flight, although the primary flight feathers darken during the summer. The bird has a long black cap, which is bushy at the nape; the long thin sharp bill is black with a yellow tip. When perched the short black legs are characteristic.

14/4/07-Sandwich Tern at Bolonia, nr.Tarifa - in summer breeding plumage with a fully black head and darkened primary flight feathers

In winter, the adult Sandwich Tern’s forehead becomes white. Juvenile Sandwich Terns have dark tips to their tails, and a scaly appearance on their back and wings.

16/1/08- Sandwich Terns in winter

Sandwich Tern often associate with Black-headed Gulls. This photograph shows both birds in winter plumage

Sandwich Terns amongst a small flock of Black-headed Gulls, all birds in winter plumage, resting on the edge of the Guadiaro Estuary

Sandwich Terns nest colonially on islands, peninsulars or secluded tongues of land. Most move after completing nesting (July) to fish-rich sites where they often congregate. Migration to winter quarters on the West African coasts may take place later than that of other terns, between August and October and is usually the first tern species to be seen in spring, during March.

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