Somehow no matter how often I photograph Black Skimmers, I never seem to tire of them. For me, they are by far the most interesting bird that can be found near waterways and sheltered shorelines. From a distance, their black backs make them stand out from the other species usually present – gulls, terns and the like. As one approaches, their bright white underbelly becomes apparent. Then, that face. That special, special face.
You’d think that a half orange, half black bill would be enough right? Nope. Look carefully.
The lower mandible is at least one and a half times the length of the upper mandible, giving the Black Skimmer a glorious underbite and one of the more unforgettable faces of the bird world. They use this remarkable adaptation to feed on the wing, I’ll get into this in a subsequent blog post. Eventually 🙂
On this day I ended up having tons of fun with these skimmers, the tide was high so no-one was feeding, but they were resting, preening, socializing and ever so often they’d all fly off, alarmed by the slightest sign of danger. Black Skimmers are usually the first ones to respond to anything resembling an alarm call. Their sudden flight usually prompts all the other roosting species to also take flight. Even the sight of an unfamiliar bird such as this Neotropic Cormorant made the entire flock jump out of their skin for a little bit. Of course, once the new bird was identified, everyone all returned to the roost.
They share the roost site with various species of gulls, terns, and pelicans, and everyone seems to get along quite fine.
Until, of course, someone comes to claim a non-existent spot.
Birds like the Royal Tern trying to land in a crowd from the preceding image migrate here as the northern winter tightens its grip. It is of utmost importance to maintain the habitat for these visitors, as many of them would perish without an established destination or staging area. Perhaps one of our most abundant and widespread migratory visitors is the Yellow Warbler. Look out for the flash of yellow in your backyard and listen for the diagnostic chip, chip, chip as it hops along branches looking for an unwary meal.