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Black Skimmer - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Rynchops niger)
Adult, breeding plumage
Photo © by bobsofpa
Fort Island Gulf Beach, Crystal River, Florida, 25 March 2009
Rynchops niger


18" (46 cm)

  • Black above
  • White below
  • Red legs
  • Bill red with black tip like a blade. Lower mandible much longer, than the upper

Immature mottled upper appearance, with shorter bill.

Photo © by Celso Paris
Peruíbe, Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 2019


Breeds along Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Massachusetts and Long Island to Florida and Texas. Winters north to southern California and Virginia. Also in American tropics.



Photo © by STEFFRO1
Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina, 29 August 2013

There are 3 subspecies[1]:

  • R. n. niger :
  • R. n. cinerascens:
  • R. n. intercedens:


Breeds chiefly on sandbars and beaches; feeds in shallow bays, inlets, and estuaries.


Tight flocks can be seen simultaneously wheeling in one direction and then another.


Typical feeding behavior
Photo © by Nick Richter
San Diego Creek, Irvine, California, 21 May 2004

They are mainly surface skimmers (hence the name) tip of the lower mandible cuts through the water. They will also wade in shallow water, jabbing at the fish.


3 or 4 brown-blotched buff eggs on bare sand, usually among shell fragments and scattered grass clumps.

They are particularly attracted to the newly-dredged sand-fill areas, which may contain colonies of up to 200 pairs. These sites will be abandoned as soon as too much grass appears.


Short barking notes.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gochfeld, M. and J. Burger (1994). Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.108
  3. Lefevre, K. L. (2018). Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.blkski.01
  4. Zusi, R.L. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/54056 on 5 February 2020).

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External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1