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Black skimmer

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Black Skimmer
BlackSkimmer.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Rynchops niger

Anatomy

Black Skimmer front.
The Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) is a medium-sized, slender water bird, whose appearance is similar to that of a gull or tern. They measure between 15.7 and 19.7 inches[1], have a wingspan of about 45 inches[2], and weigh between 7.5 and 15.8 ounces[1]. They are often referred to as tern-like in appearance, but they are truly in a class all their own.


The top of the bird is a flat black, causing the black eyes with a vertical slit pupil[3] to be nearly invisible, and the underpart of the bird is white. The long, laterally narrow and knife-like bill, which is red at the base and black at the time is truly unique, as its lower mandible is nearly an inch longer than the top. The short legs are reddish-orange. Males are larger than females.[4].




Behavior

Black Skimmers skimming.
Black Skimmers are quite social, usually in large colonies, or "conspiracies", "scoops", or "embezzlements"[5]. According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide, "Compact flocks may be seen flying in unison, wheeling in one direction and then another -- showing first the jet black of the wings, then the gleaming white of the underparts."[6] But, Skimmers forage singly or in small parties.

Their name stems from the fact that they skim the water with their lower bill when foraging. When its very sensitive lower mandible[7] jabs a fish, its upper bill clamps down immediately to catch the fish. Tactile feeding allows them to not only fish throughout the day, but even fish nocturnally, especially at dusk and dawn, or other low light conditions such as rain or fog.

Nesting

According to AllAboutBirds.org, the mates take turns scraping their sand scrapes, or nests, which are about 10" diameter by 1" deep.[1] The males do more and larger scraping. This is done in “an exaggerated posture (with the neck, head, bill, and tail raised) kicking sand behind them with alternating” feet.[1] About 3-7 eggs are laid.[8]

Habitat

Black Skimmers prefer, according to WiseGeek.com, "sandy beaches, dunes and sand bars, marsh pools, estuaries, or near shallow bays," as well as dredge material islands, but will even gather and nest on roofs, usually gravel, due to habitat loss and disturbance.[5] Although R.M. Erwin found that Black Skimmers when compared to birds like Common and Royal Terns, were the most restricted in their habitat use, and exclusively to marsh/tidal pools,[9] the "Shorebirds/Seabirds-Black Skimmer" (1983) report concluded "that the skimmer is best adapted to exploit prey in the shallow, smooth water along land-water interfaces."[10] More recent reports such as,

Hunter et al. (2006) determined that black skimmers, along with other beach-nesting species, are a highly vulnerable species and concluded that population declines will continue without conservation measures to protect nesting habitats. Recreational activity, shoreline hardening, mechanical raking, oiling of adults or breeding areas following spills, beach driving, and increased presence of domestic animals are all examples of human-induced negative impatcts to coastal habitats critical to roosting and breeding skimmers.[11]


Black Skimmers take flight.


Black Skimmers in flight.


Black_Skimmers_at_the_Beach.jpg‎

--MickiP65 06:32, 19 March 2013 (PDT)

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "All About Birds." Black Skimmer, Life History,. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/black_skimmer/lifehistory/ac
  2. "Shorebirds/Seabirds - Black Skimmer." Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Web. 14 Mar. 2012. http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/shorebirdsseabirds/black-skimmer
  3. Black Skimmer. (2013, February 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:28, March 23, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Black_Skimmer&oldid=540265661
  4. "Black Skimmer (Rynchops Niger)." Black Skimmer Videos, Photos and Facts. ARKive, 9 Feb. 2009. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. http://www.arkive.org/black-skimmer/rynchops-niger/
  5. 5.0 5.1 Durkee, Debra, and Daniel Lindley. "What Is a Black Skimmer?" WiseGeek. Conjecture. Web. 13 Mar. 2012.
  6. Bull, John L., and John Farrand, Jr. "Black Skimmer." The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region. Revised ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. 526-27. Print. "ISBN 10 0679428526"
  7. "Black Skimmer, Rynchops Niger." NJ Fish and Wildlife. N.p., 1 Nov. 2002. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/ensp/pdf/end-thrtened/blkskimmer.pdf.
  8. "Black Skimmer." Birdinginformation.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2013. http://www.birdinginformation.com/birds/turns-and-skimmers/black-skimmer/.
  9. Erwin, R.M. 1977. Foraging and breeding adaptations to different food regimes in three seabirds: the Common Tern, Sterna hirundo, Royal Tern Sterno maxima, and Black Skimmer Rynchops niger. Ecology 58:389-397.
  10. "Shorebirds/Seabirds - Black Skimmer." Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Web. 14 Mar. 2012. http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/shorebirdsseabirds/black-skimmer
  11. Hunter, W.C. W. Golder, S.L. Melvin, and J.A. Wheeler. 2006. Southeast United States regional waterbird conservation plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

OTHER REFERENCES:

  • Douglass (FWC Lead), Nancy J., Elizabeth A. Forys (Eckerd College), and Gary L. Sprandel (Kentucky Dept of Fish and Wildlife Resources), BRG, and Michelle VanDeventer, Comp. Biological Status Review Report for the Black Skimmer (Rynchops Niger) March 31, 2011 Rep. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2011. Print.
  • Gochfield, Michael, and Joanna Burger, "Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)," Black Skimmer. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online, 1994. Web. 13 Mar 2012.[1]
  • "Skimmer Family." Don Robertson Creagrus Home. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. [2]
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