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.
If the young chick has any siblings, and most of them due, then he has to learn how to get along with others.
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.
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.
As he gets more comfortable, he even feels confident enough to give himself a pedicure.
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.
Sometimes the danger comes from your own species.
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.
And what youngster doesn’t love to frolic in the surf while at the beach?
Eventually, this gangly teenager will turn into a beautiful adult black skimmer and soar above the oceans in search of his future.