Bird Gallery Index
Black Skimmer image © Joanne Kamo.
Family: (Laridae) Gulls, Terns, and Allies
Preferred Habitat: Coastal beaches and bays.
Seasonal Occurrence: Very common throughout the year; breeds in our area
Notes: The Black Skimmer is inmistakable, with its huge red and black bill. Closely related to terns, skimmers are the only birds whose lower mandible is longer than the upper one. Juvenile Black Skimmers have splotchy brown rather than black backs. Black Skimmers nest directly on the beach; their nests are a simple depression, scooped in the sand. The eggs blend in so perfectly with the beach they are difficult to see. Because their nests are so vulnerable to vandalism, beach traffic, and being washed away by storms, skimmer colonies need special protection. One of the most successful skimmer colonies in Texas is at the Dow Industrial Complex at Freeport. In 1968 a few pairs decided their oyster shell parking lot made the ideal nesting spot. Since then Dow Chemical has done an outstanding job in protecting the colony. In 2003, 1,500 adults (400 breeding pairs) used the Dow facility. Dow provides controlled public tours of the colony in June. Closer to home, Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary and Rollover Pass are good places to look for Black Skimmers.
- Susan Billetdeaux