Black Skimmers on Tybee

The Black Skimmer is a year round resident here on Tybee. Primarily, skimmers will be near the bird sanctuary on the north end by the Lighthouse area. When nesting, the parents’ take turns kicking up sand behind them to “scrape” up a depression to build a nest to lay their eggs. Nests are usually small at around 10” wide and maybe an inch deep. Eggs are pale cream in color with pink or brown spots. The male and female take turns incubating the eggs. Hatch-lings will immediately leave the nest and will lay in the depression. This area is a lower temperature and parents will shield them from the sun. Babies are even known from time to time to dig their own depressions.

Babies are born with the upper and lower mandibles the same size. The lower jaw does grow quickly. It takes 24 days before they are able to take flight; parents have to feed them during this period. Babies are fed almost exclusively during the day. Adults can easily scoop fish as they skim the top of the water. They are mostly nocturnal or crepuscular, meaning that they are most active at night because the water is calmer with fish closer to the surface.

With their long wings, this allows them to make sharp turns while flying. If you are lucky enough to catch a flock, you would think they were flying dogs because of their “barking” cries. Being very social birds, they tend to stay with their flock and nest in the same areas each year. Larger colonies are more successful; smaller ones usually feel the urge to relocate.

In New Jersey, Florida, and North Carolina skimmers are on the state protected list. Big concerns for this species popped up in 2010 during the BP Gulf Coast oil spill when 263 birds were affected. Federally, however they are not protected or considered endangered. Their official status is of least concern and thank goodness. We love having these beautiful birds here on our island!