Black Skimmer

Hey guys welcome back! Today is a really cool, and somewhat odd looking bird; the black skimmer. This is a crow-sized sea bird that is pretty unique looking, and probably won’t be confused with anything else. They are black above and white below, have orange legs and a long orange bill that has a black tip. That bill is uniquely shaped. The lower mandible is quite a bit longer than the upper, giving this bird a severe underbite. When viewed from the front you can see the bill is very narrow, like the blade of a knife. They feed on fish and use their longer lower jaw to “skim” the water, hence their name.

The black skimmer is strictly an ocean bird. They are found on the Pacific Coast from around the San Francisco Bay area south, and on the Atlantic Coast from around Cape Cod south, as well as the Gulf Coast and both coasts of Mexico and Central America. They are rarely seen inland. Black skimmers are actually in the same family (laridae) as gulls. They also have the unique habit of laying down on the ground to rest. I mean like full on laying down with their head and neck resting on the ground. They actually look dead while doing this!

I’ve seen plenty of black skimmers when I lived in NYC. And despite having seen them actively hunting during the afternoon, they are largely crepuscular. They rely on their sense of touch to catch fish, and therefore have no trouble doing so in low light. Makes sense now when I think back on the last ones I saw. I was on the ferry to Rockaway to visit a friend. The boat was passing by Coney Island, and the sun was setting, and through my binoculars in the distance I saw a flock of about 5 of them flying by. It was a really cool moment. Next up, we have another sandpiper. See you then!

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