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The Black Skimmer

Posted by Greg on January 4, 2012

Black Skimmer. Photo by Dan Pancamo (Wikimedia Commons)

The Black Skimmer is a unique and quite beautiful bird. Its name describes its top color and its feeding method. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology,  “the remarkable bill of the Black Skimmer sets it apart from all other American birds. The large red and black bill is knife-thin and the lower mandible is longer than the upper.”

Another fascinating trait of the Black Skimmer is its call.  Dave Mehlman of  The Nature Conservancy says “it has a call somewhat like a dog, a distinct voice among coastal birds in the United States. In fact, some have described the black skimmer as an ‘aerial beagle.’ ”

Dave Melman continues, “the skimmer feeds by flying low over the water and putting its lower bill into the water. As it flies along, when it encounters a fish with its lower bill, the upper bill snaps down instantly and the skimmer catches and eats the fish. The key to this whole feeding mechanism is that the lower bill is shaped like a knife, with a narrow leading edge. So, it can literally slice through the water while flying along at a normal speed.”

Black Skimmer. Photo by Dan Pancamo (Wikimedia Commons)

The Black Skimmer is found in Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas of North America from Massachusetts south to Central and South America. It likes to frequent open sandy beaches, and it nests on low-lying sandy areas with low vegetation.

Watching birds is one of many things we enjoy at the seashore. From pelicans to plovers to birds of prey, all are unique and beautiful, and it’s a lot of fun to discover new and different coastal birds. Watch for more beach birds on Wild Wednesdays to come, and in the meantime, happy beach birdwatching!

As always, please feel free to tell us about your favorite beach bird-spotting experiences in the comment box below.  Also, you may consider submitting a guest article on the subject.  We’re always happy to see your ideas!

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