Living Bird Magazine
Black SkimmerRynchops niger
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
The remarkable bill of the Black Skimmer sets it apart from all other American birds. The large red and black bill is knife-thin and the lower mandible is longer than the upper. The bird drags the lower bill through the water as it flies along, hoping to catch small fish.More ID Info
- Rayador Americano (Spanish)
- Bec-en-ciseaux noir (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Black Skimmer is the only American representative of the skimmer family. The other two, rather similar, species are the African Skimmer and the Indian Skimmer. All use the same unusual feeding method.
- Although the Black Skimmer is active throughout the day, it is largely crepuscular (active in the dawn and dusk) and even nocturnal. Its use of touch to catch fish lets it be successful in low light or darkness.
- At hatching, the two mandibles of a young Black Skimmer are equal in length, but by fledging at four weeks, the lower mandible is already nearly 1 cm longer than the upper.
- Possibly the best description of the Black Skimmer's bounding, head-down foraging style came from R. C. Murphy in 1936. He said they look like “unworldly… aerial beagles hot on the scent of aerial rabbits.”
- The oldest recorded Black Skimmer was at least 23 years, 1 month old, when it was identified by its band in California in 2013. It had been banded in the same state in 1990.