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Home > Science > Black Skimmer - Water Birds Series

Black Skimmer - Water Birds Series

This page tells about the Black Skimmer. It is part of our water birds series.


The striking Black Skimmer is unique in that its lower mandible is longer than its upper mandible. It has the avian equivalent of an underbite. It is the only member of the skimmer family found in North America.

Measuring up to 20 inches in length, the Black Skimmer has a black cap, neck, back and wings. Its underparts are white. The wings are very long and the legs are short and orangish in color. The unusual bill is orange at the base and black toward the tip. Females and males are similar. Immature birds are brownish. Non-breeding birds have a black cap but lack black on the forehead and neck.


The Black Skimmer drags its lower mandible through the water hoping to catch small fish.

Range and Habitat

The Black Skimmer breeds along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida, and along the Gulf coast from Florida to Mexico. Large populations of Black Skimmers are year-round residents throughout most of South America. Black skimmers prefer saltwater habitats such as beaches, bays, estuaries, and sandbars. Black Skimmers sometimes nest in gravel-filled driveways or parking lots.


Populations of Black Skimmers are stable.


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