The skimmers, all three species belonging to the genus Rynchops, are obviously closely related to the terns. Thet are easily separated from these by their knife like bills with a extremely elongated lower mandible with which they ‘plough’ the surface of the water. The three species occur each in a different parts of the world and are unlikely to be confused. The American species is the largest and has black tips to the upper and lower mandible. The other two species have orange bills. Their plumages are very similar: blackish upper parts and white bellies.
light feather edges and streaked crowns. The legs, feet, and base of the bill are dusky-red. Juveniles acquire adult-like plumage the following summer.
Listen to the sound of Black Skimmer
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
|wingspan min.:||110||cm||wingspan max.:||114||cm|
|size min.:||45||cm||size max.:||46||cm|
|incubation min.:||21||days||incubation max.:||23||days|
|fledging min.:||23||days||fledging max.:||23||days|
islands, and dredge disposal islands that are sparsely vegetated and contain shell fragments. The growth of dense vegetation may cause colony relocation. Skimmers also frequently nest on wrack mats (deposits of dead sea grasses and other vegetation) on marsh islands in the back bays; however, these colonies are typically much smaller than the beach colonies. Black skimmers forage in shallow-water tidal creeks, inlets, and ponds. Similar coastal and estuarine habitats are used throughout the year.
Black skimmer’s nest is only a shallow depression in the sand. Black skimmer breeds on beaches, in loose colonies. They turn in the scrape to create a cup-shaped depression, where no materials are added. During nest building, pair makes turns scraping, with exaggerated posture, neck, head, bill and tail erected, with alternate foot strokes that eject sand backwards. Nest building needs 5 to 7 days.
Female lays 4 to 5 white eggs, largely blotched with black and with some purplish brown spots. Incubation lasts about 21 to 23 days, or 25 days if disturbed. Incubation is only by female.
Young appear on the same colour as the sand, and they are not able to fly before 6 weeks, but they fledge at 23 to 25 days, and they lie flat in the sand, in depressions that they scrape themselves. At hatching, chicks have their mandibles equal in length.
Both parents feed them by regurgitation, and at the end, they pick up shrimps, prawns, small crabs and fishes dropped before them. Young reach their sexual maturity at 2 years old. When they are gorged and tired, both, parents and young, lie flat on the sand, with their bills extended before them.
Black skimmer flies low over the water, the lower mandible skimming the surface for small fishes and crustaceans. When it catches a prey, it bows the head and closes its bill. Then, it bends its beak below the body before to rise higher to turn its prey and swallow it in flight.
When it is skimming, its lower mandible makes an angle of almost 45 degrees with the upper, which is elevated a little above the surface. They feed mainly under low wind, when the surface is quiet.
It feeds especially from dusk to dawn because it is highly nocturnal. It spends the whole night on wing, searching for food. Black skimmer feeds mainly on small fishes and also crustaceans.
Breeds from southern California (west)and New York (east)south to southern South America along coasts and on major river systems; winters in southern temperate and tropical portions of breeding range, West Indies. Common in Suriname along the coast on sand- and mudbanks. Often seen along the Weg naar Zee near Paramaribo. Most likely a non-breeder, a nest have never been recovered.