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Black Skimmer: Rynchops niger

Appearance:

Adult plumage is black above, white below and this striking combination, coupled with the brightly colored bill, makes it easy to spot the birds as they hunt over the water or loaf on the beach with other seabirds and shorebirds.

Habitat:

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.

Behavior:

Black skimmers rely on camouflage or group mobbing to protect their nests.

Black skimmers "skim" the surface of the water with black-tipped bright red bills. The lower half of the bill is longer than the upper, allowing it to cut through the water and dip down to grab small fish encountered near the surface

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