Field Guide to Maryland's Turtles (Order Testudines)

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta​​)

Common Name:

​Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Photo of Loggerhead Seaturtle courtesy of JohnWhite
Photo of Loggerhead Seaturtle courtesy of JohnWhite

Size: 31 - 45 inches. Record – 83 inches


Photo of Loggerhead Seaturtle (ventral view) courtesy of JohnWhite
Photo of Loggerhead Sea Turtle
(ventral view) courtesy of John White

  • This is the largest living hard-shelled turtle (Leatherbacks are larger, but soft-shelled).
  • Five or more costal scutes on each side of the heart-shaped carapace, or top shell.
  • The first costal scute touches the nuchal scute.
  • The elongated carapace is reddish brown often tinged with olive, and scutes may also have a yellow border.
  • The large scutes on the large head follow this color pattern also.
  • The rear border of the carapace is serrated in all but the largest specimens.
  • Carapace often encrusted with barnacles.
  • The plastron (bottom shell) is cream to yellow.
  • Upper surface of neck and flippers are reddish brown, while undersurfaces are cream to yellow.
  • Three enlarged bridge scutes, which do not have pores.


Open sea to near shore and brackish bays. Occasionally found in the tidal brackish portions of larger coastal rivers. Nest on sandy ocean-side beaches.

How to Find:

Our most common sea turtle, they can be viewed from May to November near shore and offshore (adults) or in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays (juveniles) while boating, as they spend a great deal of time floating on the surface. In recent years there have been a few nesting attempts on the beaches of Fenwick and Assateague Islands. Nesting is typically at night from June to August. 

Distribution in Maryland:

Aquatic areas of the Coastal Bays and Chesapeake. May nest in Worcester County. This turtle is listed as Federally and State Threatened. If found, please report sightings to the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service. If found stranded or dead, please report sightings.​