Life is Tough for a Black Skimmer

Life is Tough for a Black Skimmer

It’s a tough life to be a black skimmer. Oh, sure its great to be able to loaf on the beach, fly to distant beaches to explore, pluck your breakfast out of the ocean with your razor-thin beak. Great stuff. But from the moment the egg is laid, a black skimmer’s life is a balance of soaring opportunities and dangerous hazards. While adult black skimmers are not immune from hazards, it is a young black skimmer that has the toughest challenges.

Take for instance a newly hatched black skimmer. Not only does he have to fight his way out of the egg, but he quickly has to learn how to eat. This little one still has his egg tooth and is still damp from being in the shell. Dad is offering his first meal, but he has to figure out how to stretch out of the nest scrape and grab the fish from dad’s beak. Click the images to view larger.

Freshly hatched black skimmer
Freshly hatched black skimmer

If the young chick has any siblings, and most of them due, then he has to learn how to get along with others.

Siblings discussing who gets the next fish.
Siblings discussing who gets the next fish.

As the black skimmer chick grows, his demand for food increases dramatically. So he has to learn to entertain himself while mom and dad are out doing the grocery shopping. It’s also a good idea to hide in the vegetation to make it harder for the gulls and crows to find you.

Waiting for groceries - black skimmer
Waiting for groceries

Black skimmers nest in colonies so as to better protect their vulnerable young. But eventually the larger chicks will venture away from the colony and start exploring the beach on their own.

Black skimmer teenager
Black skimmer teenager

As he gets more comfortable, he even feels confident enough to give himself a pedicure.

Keeping the toes in good shape - black skimmer
Keeping the toes in good shape

Black skimmers are threatened, so local conservationists will take steps to protect the colony from being disturbed by beachcombers. They will rope off the nesting area and provide netting to keep the young skimmers from getting separated from the safety of the colony. Unfortunately there are times when these efforts result in a teenage skimmer getting tangled up in the rope lines meant to protect him. Luckily for this little guy there were three photographers that morning willing and able to help him get untangled and release him back into the protective custody of mom and dad. Photographers get a bad rap from birders and conservationists, and honestly, there are a few bad apples out there that will push the limits and disturb wildlife. But the vast majority of us love the subjects we photograph and will volunteer our time, photographs and resources to help them.

Black skimmer rescue
Black skimmer rescue

Sometimes the danger comes from your own species.

That's gotta hurt!
That’s gotta hurt!

At some point, mom and dad will no longer feed the young black skimmer, so he must learn some of the basic skimming techniques in the safety of the kiddie pool.

Learning the basics
Learning the basics

And what youngster doesn’t love to frolic in the surf while at the beach?

Fun in the surf
Fun in the surf

Eventually, this gangly teenager will turn into a beautiful adult black skimmer and soar above the oceans in search of his future.

Black skimmer in flight
Black skimmer in flight
Perfect landing
Perfect landing

14 Comments

  • Margaret

    July 29, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Enjoyed the skimmer story. Most photographers I know are good guys like you.

    • Michael

      July 29, 2015 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks, Margaret!

  • JeanThomas

    July 29, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Great photos and images.

    • Michael

      July 30, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you, Jean!

  • Judy Rogero

    July 29, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    3 photographers Jim Gray, Bill Kracov, Justry Falcon

    • Michael

      July 30, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Thanks for the IDs Judy.

  • Kathy Urbach

    July 30, 2015 at 5:03 am

    Michael, I really love all your blogs. The skimmers are a favorite of mine. I enjoy most the teenage years….they are beautiful at that time with such a different plumage than the adult. Thank you for sharing the Skimmer Story.

    • Michael

      July 30, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you SO much, Kathy!

  • Alan "A.C."

    July 30, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Wonderful shots, Michael !
    They were fun to watch & to photograph.

    Alan “A.C.”

  • Michael

    July 30, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Thanks, Alan!

  • Jay Connors

    July 30, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Great Stuff Mike. Love your blogs. Thanks

    • Michael

      July 31, 2015 at 6:01 am

      Thanks, Jay!

  • Meg Puente

    November 10, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Superb pictures taken at such perfect moments, all with spot-on insightful comments, Michael…

    • Michael

      November 12, 2015 at 8:07 am

      Thanks, Meg!