110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Feb 17, 2013 - 7:47:48pm
Black skimmers are beautiful, graceful seabirds who visit Florida in the winter on their way to more southerly destinations.
Their bills are unique, to say the least! The half of the narrow bill closest to the face is bright orange, and the other half is black. Together they are shaped like a pointed knife. The lower bill is much longer than the top, which nature knew would make their fishing for food quite easy.
Male black skimmers are larger than females, and they are between 16 and 20 inches in length. This species has small feet, and is quite clumsy and awkward when walking, so they seldom walk! Why would they bother to walk when they are such marvelous swimmers and fliers? Their wingspan is 42 to 50 inches, and they weigh between 7.5 and 15.8 ounces.
These orange-legged birds have long wings that extend past their tail. At breeding time, they have a black upper body, crown, and nape of neck, and their underparts and forehead are white. The non-breeding plumage is paler, and the nape is white. I'm sure that creatures in the water don't even see black skimmers, since the birds' underside is white just like the clouds. They are absolutely amazing to watch.
These fascinating birds breed from April through July in North, Central and South America. The northern population winters in the Caribbean and the tropical and subtropical Pacific. The rest are already in their summer location. They never go inland, but stay on ocean shores.
Dogs, raccoons and humans are their main enemies. Also, gulls eat the skimmers' eggs when they get the chance. The beautiful, agile skimmers are almost defenseless, and are poor fighters. Staying out of harm's way is their main protection.
Black skimmers are a species of special concern, which means their population is not large, yet not in extreme danger of becoming extinct. Enjoy seeing these beautiful birds if you're lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them while at the beach!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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