Daily Bird nesting season special: Black Skimmer
June 10, 2022
by Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation
Video by Gilles Carter, Connecticut Audubon Board of Directors
Blacks Skimmers are amazing-looking and are uncommon enough to be worth watching for. It helps if you pick the right spot, and as the eBird map below shows, it has to be near the water.
In Connecticut that’s often the Milford Point Coastal Center or Sandy Point in West Haven. George Amato, a member of Connecticut Audubon’s Board of Directors, and Imani Rodriguez, a Coastal Ranger at Milford Point, saw four working the waters around the sandbar there just the other day, on Wednesday, June 8.
A large, black and white, tern-like waterbird, the Black Skimmer has a distinctive large red bill. Skimmers are the only birds with the lower mandible longer than the upper. Typically they fly low over the water with the lower mandible cutting the surface hoping to catch small fish. Watch the quick video above to see how a young Black Skimmer does it.
Skimmers are fairly good-sized birds, about 17 inches long, and are generally grouped together. When at rest, they often perch on sand and gravel bars, their black backs and white underparts visible at long distances. So scan the offshore bars for a small group of larger black and white birds sitting on the sand.
Although skimmers can be active during the day, they are most active at dawn and dusk when small fish venture near the water’s surface.
Conservation status: Black Skimmers are listed by the IUCN as a species of Least Concern. However, rising sea levels may impact the beaches and sand bars that they require for nesting in the future.
The main threat to skimmers is development or other loss of their beach-nesting habitat, since they nest on exactly the kinds of beaches that people like to vacation on. In addition to habitat loss, skimmer nests can be destroyed by roaming dogs and by vehicles that are allowed to drive on beaches.