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Friday, August 05, 2016

Friday's Foto

A relative of the tern, the Black Skimmer is one of only three bird species whose lower mandible is much longer than the upper. The other two are also skimmers - the African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris) and the Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis). They get their name from their unusual foraging method. Using a sense of touch to catch fish, they fly low over the water with their long, thin lower bill plowing the water. When they make contact with a fish, the bill snaps shut. While active during the day, this method also allows them to be crepuscular or, sometimes, nocturnal hunters. Their preferred habitat is mostly ocean beaches and tidewaters.

Breeding along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts; from Massachusetts to central Mexico in the east and in isolated areas from southern California to Ecuador in the west. They are year-round residents from the coast of North Carolina to Mexico. They appear to be expanding their range west.

In NYC, you can see a large breeding colony at Breezy Point, Queens. During the summer they can usually be seen feeding in numerous locations around the Rockaways, Jamaica Bay, as well as, periodically at Prospect Lake and the reservoir in Central Park.

While some populations seem to be decreasing, the IUCN Red List lists their conservation status as "Least Concern". Not currently federally protected, they are on several state lists, ranging from endangered in New Jersey to special concern in North Carolina and Florida. They are not on "The State of North America's Birds 2016" Watch List and have a relatively high score of "13". Read more about their conservation here.

Their scientific name, Rynchops niger, means "cut off bill" and "black".

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