Sandwich Tern Ringing Project

a group of adult and young sandwich terns sitting amongst plants

As part of our conservation work on Blakeney Point we have embarked on a colour-ringing project in order to help us understand more about the movements of these special migrating birds.

Our knowledge of where the sandwich terns go after breeding is still very limited. To help us discover more about the journey of the migrating tern, a colour-ringing project was set up in 2013 in partnership with the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) 

Each bird is given a coloured ring and a unique white three-letter code, making each individual bird identifiable. Each site taking part is given its own colour and Blakeney Point is blue meaning that it is easy to identify which ringing site the bird was ringed at.

In its first year fifty sandwich tern chicks were ringed on their right legs. 

Just two years into the project, we have had 24 sightings. These were between July and September, when the young birds begin migration with their parents. We have learned that they do not all head south straight away, several went north to Scotland and some headed east to mainland Europe. In October 2015 we had our first sighting of a Blakeney Point ringed sandwich tern in South Africa. This bird had been ringed as a chick in 2014 and was spotted amongst a group of tern on the coast of Storm River.

We are very excited to find where our ringed birds start breeding. Sandwich Terns first breed when they are aged two to three. It will be interesting to see how many we find at Blakeney Point and also where else they may end up breeding.

The ringing project will continue into the future, with the aim of ringing as many chicks as possible each year. This will increase our chances of re-sighting birds.

If you visit Blakeney Point in the summer, keep an eye out for blue rings. Take a photograph if you can, if you can read the three-letter code; please email the BTO: colour.ringing@bto.org