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Black Skimmers

Rynchops niger


The Black Skimmer is the only Skimmer found in North and South America. It is a black and white tern and has a massive red bill with a black tip. Males are bigger and have larger bills than the females. The lower bill is longer than the upper bill which makes it looks as if it has a big head. No other bird has a lower mandible longer than the upper bill. It has a black crown and white forehead and under parts. Its long pointed wings are longer than its short tail. The Black Skimmer has legs and feet that are red-orange and the feet are webbed. The pupil of the eye is a vertical slit which helps to cut down on the glare of the water during the day and also helps with foraging at night. A juvenile is mottled gray-brown with white scaling above the legs. The forehead and nape of the neck is white; the back of the neck is dark brown. The juvenile’s legs are pale orange and there is black feathering on the back and wings.


Black skimmers, and least, royal and sandwich terns nest in colonies in the open sand on beaches, sandbars, and dredge material islands. Their nests are built on the ground and often consist of simple scrapes in the sand. (Due to habitat loss, a very small percentage of black skimmers also nest on gravel roofs!) Habitat loss from coastal development has reduced the number of suitable nesting spots for black skimmers. Fortunately, the birds have successfully nested on spoil islands and along causeways. On busy beaches, the birds and their nests are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance and to predation by domestic dogs, raccoons and laughing gulls. For these reasons, black skimmers are listed as a Species of Special Concern. Breeding colonies of black skimmers can be found along Florida's Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Watch for them in the early evening when they actively feed, and scan flocks of loafing birds for this uncommon coastal resident.


Tampa bay in St. Petersburg, Florida

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CourtneyVerk 9 years ago

Funny looking birds! I love their beaks.

CJulen 9 years ago

Great pics and info!

Spotted by

St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Spotted on Dec 13, 2011
Submitted on Dec 13, 2011


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