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An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Black Skimmer

Nov 03, 2016 02:11PM ● By Paul Spear

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Black Skimmer is presented by Bryan Brillhart Photography.

This week’s Bird of the Week is the black skimmer ( Rynchops niger ), a tern- like seabird one of three very similar birds species in the skimmer family. The remarkable bill of the Black Skimmer sets it apart from all other American birds. The large red and black bill
 is  knife-thin and the lower mandible is longer than the upper. The bird drags the lower bill through the water as it flies along, hoping to catch small fish. The Black Skimmer is the only American representative of the skimmer family. Although the Black Skimmer is active throughout the day, it is largely crepuscular (active in the dawn and dusk) and even nocturnal. Its use of touch to catch fish lets it be successful in low light or darkness. At hatching, the two mandibles of a young Black Skimmer are equal in length, but by fledging at four weeks, the lower mandible is already nearly 1 cm longer than the upper. Look for Black Skimmers on open sandy beaches, on gravel or shell bars with sparse vegetation, or on mats of sea wrack (tide-stranded debris) in saltmarsh. Skimmers are occasionally seen at inland lakes such as the Salton Sea of California. Much of this species' original beach habitat has been developed as houses and attractions for beachgoers. Particularly in the southeastern U.S., artificial islands made from dredge spoils are an important nesting habitat for this and other species. This bird is a joy to watch as it skims over the water with open mouth feeding in the Tijuana Estuary near the river mouth.                                                     ###
Bryan Brillhart


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