Black Skimmer Rynchops niger

Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer bill
The Black Skimmer is one of three skimmer species and breeds in North and South America, the northern birds wintering in tropical America.
Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer with Laughing Gull
Black Skimmer
A seabird allied to terns, it has a most unusual beak with the lower bill much longer than the upper bill. The beak is orange for the base half and black for the top half.
Black Skimmer beak
Black Skimmer bill
Black Skimmer beak
Bizarrely, the bill tapers to a narrow blade when seen head-on. Apparently this allows the Skimmer to speed over the top of the water with the lower beak in the water and to trap small fish.
Black Skimmer foot
Black Skimmer
Black Skimmers
The orange feet are webbed, with black claws.
Black Skimmer flight
Black Skimmer wingspan
Black Skimmer skimming
It is up to 50cm (20 inches) long with a wingspan of up to 127cm (4 feet).
Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer
The photos on this page were taken by Alexandra Makhnina in Florida, USA. She comments particularly on the strange sleeping position of many of the skimmers which were lying on the beach relatively unafraid of people. They looked as if they were dead, so many stretched out like "lazy dogs", but they were resting. Possibly the bill is heavy.
Black Skimmer juvenile
Black Skimmer juvenile
Black Skimmer juvenile head
The juvenile has a more cryptic grey and black plumage, a less bright bill and less-pronounced disparity between the top and bottom of the beak.
Black Skimmer immature
Black Skimmer juvenile
Black Skimmer young
Some immature birds are brown. They may be older juveniles since the bill is brighter -- the one shown above right has an almost adult bill in colour and disparity and darker plumage.