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Sterna sandvicensis

(Caribbean tern)


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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Afrikaans:


Common Names in Dutch:

Grote Stern

Common Names in English:

Cabot's tern, Caribbean tern, Cayenne tern, Sandwich tern

Common Names in French:

Sterne caugek

Common Names in German:


Common Names in Hebrew:

שחפית סנדוויץ'

Common Names in Italian:


Common Names in Japanese:


Common Names in Russian:

Pestronosaya Krachka, Крачка пестроносая, Пестроносая крачка

Common Names in Spanish:

Charr, Charrán de Sandwich, Charrán patinegro, Charrán de Sandwich

Common Names in Swedish:

Kentsk tärna


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Physical Description

Adult Summer: Head : Crest : short black Crown: black Face : white Bill: black with yellow tip Length : long Shape : slender Neck: white Body: Rump : white Underparts: white Upperparts: pale gray Legs : Foot Color: black Leg Color: black Tail: white Shape: deeply forked.


About 14 to 16 inches long, with a wingspan of 34 to 34 inches. Adults weigh about 7.3 ounces .


Vegetation: freshwater marshes, coastal waters • Foraging Strata: Water • Center of Abundance: Lower tropical: lowlands, lower than 500 m.; tropics. • Sensitivity to Disturbance: High

Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 3,427 meters (0 to 11,243 feet).[1]

Ecology: Behaviour This species is migratory, undergoing post-breeding dispersive movements north and south to favoured feeding grounds before migrating southward1. It breeds in dense colonies with other terns or Black-headed Gulls Larus ridibundus1 and is gregarious throughout the year, often forming feeding flocks where prey is abundant or concentrated (although it may also feed solitarily)2. Habitat Breeding During the breeding season the species forms colonies on sandy islands, rocky calcareous islets , sand-spits, sand-dunes, shingle beaches and extensive deltas2 with immediate access to clear waters with shallow sandy substrates rich in surface-level fish2. It shows a preference for raised, open, unvegetated sand , gravel , mud or bare coral substrates for nesting1. Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season the species frequents sandy or rocky beaches, mudflats fringed by mangroves , estuaries, harbours and bays , often feeding over inlets and at sea1. Diet Its diet consists predominantly of surface-dwelling marine fish2 9-15 cm long1 as well as small shrimps, marine worms and shorebird nestlings1. Breeding site The nest is a shallow scrape on raised, open, unvegetated sand, gravel, mud or bare coral substrates preferably far from upright vegetation1 on sandy islands, rocky calcareous islets, sand-spits, sand-dunes and shingle beaches2. The species forms very dense colonies during the breeding season in which the eggs of neighbouring pairs may only be 20 cm apart1. Management information The species responds favourably to habitat management such as vegetation clearance, and can be readily attracted to suitable nesting habitats by the use of decoys1. Breeding pairs are also known to be attracted to coastal locations where artificial nesting sites have been constructed (e.g. beaches of bare shingle and islands or rafts covered with sparse vegetation)4. A conservation scheme for the protection of gull and tern breeding colonies in coastal lagoons and deltas (e.g. Po Delta, Italy) involves protection from human disturbance , prevention of erosion of islet complexes, habitat maintenance and the creation of new islets for nest sites5. The scheme particularly specifies that bare islets with 30-100 % cover of low vegetation (sward heights less than 20 cm) should be maintained or created as nesting sites5. [2].

List of Habitats:

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Almost Exclusively: Fish

Lesser Quantities of: Aquatic Invertebrates


Clutch Size: 1-2 Length of Incubation : 24-25 days Days to Fledge : 30-35 Number of Broods: 1




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Thalasseus sandvicensis (Latham


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 18-Jan-2005

Similar Species

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Gull-Billed Tern

Members of the genus Sterna

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 67 species and subspecies in this genus:

S. acuticauda (Black-Bellied Tern) · S. albifrons (Little Striker) · S. albifrons albifrons (Little Tern) · S. albifrons athalassos (Little Tern) · S. albistriata (Black-Fronted Tern) · S. albostriata (Saunder's Little Tern) · S. aleutica (Aleutian Tern) · S. anaetheta (Bridled Tern) · S. anaethetus (Brown-Winged Tern) · S. anaethetus anaethetus (Brown-Winged Tern) · S. anaethetus recognita (Bridled Tern) · S. antillarum (American Least Tern) · S. antillarum albifrons (Little Tern) · S. antillarum antillarum (Least Tern) · S. antillarum athalassos (Interior Least Tern) · S. antillarum browni (California Least Tern) · S. aurantia (River Tern) · S. balaenarum (Damara Tern) · S. bengalensis (Lesser Crester Tern) · S. bengalensis bengalensis (Lesser Crester Tern) · S. bergii (Greater Crested Tern) · S. bergii bergii (Greater Crested Tern) · S. bernsteini (Chinese Crested-Tern) · S. caspia (Caspian Tern) · S. caspia caspia (Caspian Tern) · S. dougallii (Roseate Tern) · S. dougallii bangsi (Roseate Tern) · S. dougallii dougallii (Roseate Tern) · S. elegans (Elegant Tern) · S. eurygnatha (Cayenne Tern) · S. forsteri (Forster's Tern) · S. fuscata (Wide-Awake) · S. fuscata crissalis (Sooty Tern) · S. fuscata fuscata (Sooty Tern) · S. hirundinacea (South American Tern) · S. hirundo (Common Tern) · S. hirundo hirundo (Common Tern (Common)) · S. hirundo longipennis (Common Tern (Siberian)) · S. lorata (Peruvian Tern) · S. lunata (Grey-Backed Tern) · S. maxima (Royal Tern) · S. maxima maxima (Royal Tern) · S. melanogaster (Black-Bellied Tern) · S. nereis (Fairy Tern) · S. nereis nereis (Fairy Tern) · S. nilotica (Bulled-Billed Tern) · S. nilotica groenvoldi (Gull-Billed Tern) · S. nilotica nilotica (Gull-Billed Tern) · S. nilotica vanrossemi (Gull-Billed Tern) · S. paradisaea (Arctic Tern) · S. repressa (White-Cheeked Tern) · S. sandvicensis (Caribbean Tern) · S. sandvicensis eurygnatha (Sandwich Tern) · S. sandvicensis sandvicensis (Caribbean Tern) · S. saundersi (Saunders' Little Tern) · S. striata (White-Fronted Tern) · S. striata striata (White-Fronted Tern) · S. sumatrana (Black-Naped Tern) · S. sumatrana sumatrana (Black-Naped Tern) · S. superciliaris (Yellow-Billed Tern) · S. trudeaui (Snowy-Crowned Tern) · S. virgata (Kerguelen Tern) · S. vittata (Antarctic Tern (Antarctic)) · S. vittata gaini (Antarctic Tern) · S. vittata georgiae (Antarctic Tern (South Georgia)) · S. vittata vittata (Antarctic Tern) · S. zimmermanni (Chinese Crested-Tern)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 29, 2008:



  1. Mean = 151.400 meters (496.719 feet), Standard Deviation = 572.470 based on 7,137 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
  2. BirdLife International 2009. Sterna sandvicensis. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <>. Downloaded on 05 February 2012. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-07-21