Sterna sandvicensis   Latham,  1787 (Bird)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Aves

Image copyrights: Pbase

Size: 41cm; Length 36-46 cm, weigh between 130 and 311 g, wingspan of 86 to 105 cm.

Color: Rump white, other wise very pale grey above, with black crown and crest in breeding bird, white forehead and white speckling on forecrown in non-breeding bird; white hindneck collar; white below tinged pink in breeding dress. Immature forehead brownish, mottled upperparts and dark grey tail. Bare parts: iris dark brown; bill black with yellowish white tip (diagnostic); feet and legs black.

Voice: Loud clamering in typical cherrak.

Habits: Flies closer to the water surface, often forages in flocks with Lesser Crested Tern, plunge-dives for fish.

Adult: Sexes alike. Non-breeding (winter): Forehead and crown white, black crest forming U-shaped patch, pale grey upper wings and dsrker outer primaries form distinct wedge. Breeding (summer): Cap black with crest. Juvenile: Like non-breeding adult with dark band on the lesser wing-coverts, brown crescent bars on tertiaries and tail-feathers, primaries dark grey.

Overproduction seem to occur commonly in Sandwich terns and the investment in a surplus egg serves mainly as an insurance mechanism.

Breeding season: Sandwich Terns breed in the summer. Nest- The nest is a shallow scrape on raised, open, unvegetated sand, gravel, mud or bare coral substrates preferably far from upright vegetation on sandy islands, rocky calcareous islets, sand-spits, sand-dunes and shingle beaches. The species forms very dense colonies during the breeding season in which the eggs of neighbouring pairs may only be 20 cm apart. Eggs- Female sandwich terns lay 1 to 3 eggs per breeding season that incubate for 21 to 29 days.

Lifespan/Longevity: The oldest recorded sandwich tern lived to be 23 years and 7 months.

Synonym (s)
Thalasseus sandvicensis (Latham, 1787)

Common Name (s)
• Sandwich Tern (English)
• Dariyayi vabagali (Gujrati)
• Kadalundiala (Malayalam)
Economic Importance and Threats
Importance:  Commercial
(Inshore fisherman will often look for diving terns in order to locate small baitfish.)
Importance:  Ecosystem balance
(There appears to be a mutualism between sandwich terns and common black-headed gulls where the latter provides protection from predators while occasionally eating the eggs and stealing prey items of the former.)
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(The species is particularly vulnerable to human disturbance (e.g. from tourists) especially near breeding colonies on beaches early in the breeding season. It is also sensitive to disturbance from coastal wind farms (wind turbines). It is threatened by the loss or degradation of its favoured breeding habitats through inundation, wind-blown sand and erosion and has suffered previous local declines from to exposure to bioaccumulated organochlorine pollutants in marine fish. Egg collecting at breeding colonies also poses a threat to the species throughout the tropics. )

Habitat:  Estuarine, Open Sea, Rocky, Sandy, Muddy, Coastal
Trophic Level:  Consumer
Prey:  Carnivorous (fish and marine worms).
Predator:  Short-eared owls, carrion crows, herring gulls, great black-backed gulls, foxes, and stoats are predators of chicks while common black-headed gulls prey mostly on eggs
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh INDIA
• Goa, Velsao beach INDIA (Record: 11/07/1981)
• Goa, Chapora estuary INDIA (Record: 28/03/1984, 02/02/1986, 04/1982, 05/1985, 03/1986)
• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh INDIA
• Kerala, Kol wetlands (Lat: 10.66) (Long: 76.18) INDIA
• Kerala, Kol wetlands (Lat: 10.33) (Long: 75.96) INDIA
• Kerala, Vembanad Lake (Lat: 9.28) (Long: 76.31) INDIA
• Kerala, Vembanad Lake (Lat: 9.66) (Long: 76.55) INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Point Calimere (Lat: 10.3) (Long: 79.85) INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Kumar, A; Sati, JP; Tak, PC and Alfred, JRB (2005) Handbook on Indian wetland birds and their conservation Zoological Survey of India, Dehra Dun 468 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Lainer, H (2004) Birds of Goa : A reference book The Goa Foundation, Goa 244 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • PBase Available at -
  • (1997) Coastal marine environment of Gujarat 178pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Nameer, PO (2005) Wetlands and waterfowl conservation in kerala with special reference to Ramsar sites kerala environment congress 2005 Centre for environment and development 97-112 Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Vernacular names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Buceros, Envis newsletter: Avian Ecology & Inland Wetlands 62pp Available at -
  • Avibase- the world database Available at -
  • Myers, P; Espinosa, R; Parr, CS; Jones, T; Hammond, GS and Dewey, TA (2006) Animal diversity web Available at -
  • Lal Mohan RS (1986) Birds and Bird Catchers Of Ramanathapuram Coast Available at -
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Available at -
  • Manakadan R and Pittie A (2001) Standardized English names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent BUCEROS Envis Newsletter: Avian ecology and inland wetland 6(1) 26pp Available at -
  • Kumar A, sati JP and Tak CK (2003) Checklist of Indian Waterbids Buceros Envis Newsletter: Avian ecology and inland wetlands 8(1) 30pp Available at -

Page last updated on:2012-06-26

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