Tough Way to Catch a Meal!

One of the birds we have been seeing more this summer than in the past is the Black Skimmer. The skimmer is in the tern family and has some very unique traits.
First of all it is the only bird in North America to have a larger lower mandible than upper mandible. The skimmer uses this trait to catch fish by skimming the surface of the water while dragging it’s lower mandible in the water. If it senses a fish it will snap shut it’s upper bill catching the prey. The skimmer’s lower mandible grows much faster than the upper to make up for the constant friction placed on it while skimming. The lower mandible is also hinged so that if hits something solid it can bend back without causing any harm.
Skimmers, like many coastal species, lay their eggs in a small depression in the sand which makes them susceptible to habitat disturbance by humans and other animals. They also nest in colonies that if disturbed during nesting season can greatly reduce the number of successful hatchlings.
We’ve been seeing the skimmers on our Burton’s Island Wildlife Tour. Many times they travel along the shoreline following the contours of the land. Watching the skimmer slicing though the water is a truly inspiring sight!