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August 2019

Saturday, 31 August 2019

August Bird of the Month - Sandwich Tern

August Bird of the Month - Sandwich Tern

It breeds exclusively in coastal locations and hopefully some Sandwich terns will still be around at the colony for our visit to Rye Harbour later this month. Colonies are often fickle and will move location for no particular reason.

It is a heavy looking tern with long, light grey pointed wings, white body and forked tail which lacks any streamers. The bill is black with a yellow tip and the shaggy black crest is only perfect at the start of the breeding season. By late summer the entire forehead is white.

Juveniles have brownish-black spotting on the crown and forehead, a sandy back with dark tips to the feathers and an all black bill.

After nesting birds quickly disperse and by October most have left British waters, only to return to their breeding colonies as early as March or April, making them one of our earliest summer migrants. The lifespan is thirty years or more.

Sandwich terns often fly higher than other species and can look angular, less buoyant and short-tailed. They seldom hover, but often dive with a large splash and stay under for longer than the smaller terns. Their favourite food is sand-eels, sprats and whiting which are found nearer the surface of the sea.

Further info can be found by clicking the link to view an informative video by the BTO.