Bird of the Week, June 3, 2011
Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer by Alan Wilson


The Black Skimmer’s remarkable bill, with the lower part longer than the upper, is unique among U.S. birds.  A feeding skimmer flies low over water with its beak open and partially submerged. When it touches a prey item, such as a small fish, the upper bill snaps down, securing the bird’s meal.


Preferred habitats include sandy or gravelly bars and beaches, shallow bays, estuaries, and salt marsh pools.  The Black Skimmer is a social bird, roosting and breeding in colonies of up to thousands of pairs, often alongside gulls and terns. Successful colonies usually occupy the same nest sites each year. Interestingly, this skimmer is somewhat crepuscular in its habits, feeding most actively at dawn and dusk.


Major threats to this species are habitat loss due to coastal development and human disturbances during nesting. The Black Skimmer is also affected by threats to fish populations such as oil spills or chemical pollution.


ABC is launching a five-state, Gulf Coast conservation effort to identify and implement protective measures for Black Skimmers and other vulnerable beach-nesting birds. These measures will include signage and fencing at colonies to reduce accidental nest destruction and abandonment.


Learn more and help ABC conserve this and other waterbirds!

Photo: Black Skimmer by Alan Wilson; Range Map: NatureServe, 2007