WatchList Species Account
for Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) |
the list as a Declining Yellow List Species
|Photo: Greg Lavaty
Black Skimmers are faithful to sites where
large and successful colonies have nested for years.
These sites are often mixed colonies with various
species of terns. Small colonies usually relocate.
The Black Skimmer is highly social
not only during breeding but during the rest of the year,
when it forms large flocks. The birds are largely crepuscular
and even nocturnal, though they are also active throughout the
During nesting it prefers shell bars or open areas of sand or gravel on salt marsh islands. Much
of its beach habitat has been developed for commerce, residences
or recreation. In North Carolina most of the nests are on
dredge spoil islands or other human-made or altered sites.
Breeding range on the Atlantic Coast is
from Massachusetts to Florida and along the Gulf Coast to
northern Mexico; the western population breeds at the Salton Sea
and along the coast of Orange and San Diego Counties. In winter
it is found in small numbers from the Carolinas along the
Gulf Coast to Panama.
Though once regarded as vulnerable and
declining, recent evidence shows that its population has stabilized
in much of its range. A major threat is human disturbance
during nesting; off-road vehiclesalso pose a threat, requiring
total closing of some beaches for the entire breeding season.
Beach closure through educational signs and patrolling by
wardens to keep dogs out during breeding benefit the bird.