Endangered Black Skimmers



BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)
What do you think when you see a medium-size bird with a HUGE bill just basking in the sun on the beach?  “What’s wrong?” “Should I call the Wildlife Center of Venice” for help?” “Did an alien land?” None of those! You’ve just spotted a“Black Skimmer” which is a seabird with a bill that defines both the bird and the way it
makes it’s living.  The Black Skimmer has a black back, black wings with white edging, and a white belly and head. Its wingspan can be 3 to 3.5 feet, with a height of approx. 19 inches (larger than a Laughing Gull, but smaller than a Royal Tern (although the skimmer has longer wings)). The most noticeable feature of this bird is the bill.  This large bill is bright orange close to the face and black towards the tip and is quite wide at the top. It gradually becomes smaller until it forms a sharp point at the end, with the lower part of the bill being noticeably longer than the top. There are 3 species of “skimmers”, however only the Black skimmer is found in the Americas.

The name reflects the way this bird hunts for his food, which is primarily fish. They will fly low over the surface of the water, “skimming” that surface with their lower bill. When they contact a fish, they bend their head forward and snap down with the upper bill and seize their prize. They can be active all day, but most of the activity is at dusk and dawn. While the Skimmers “make their living”
from the water, they do not swim. In Florida, the Black skimmers are found in coastal areas, but are also found in coastal areas from as far north as the northeastern U.S. south to Mexico.
Breeding colonies are most common from southern California to Ecuador. The breeding colonies can range from one pair to several hundred pairs and the birds are quite protective of their nests and will sometimes “mob” something they perceive as “threatening”.
They typically lay from 3 to 5 eggs, with parents taking 4-hour “shifts” to incubate those eggs and both parents will feed the nestlings. The upper and lower bills of the nestlings are the same length, allowing them to pick up bits of food the parents my drop – the lower bill grows longer than the upper during the fledgling
period. Once hatched, the parents will continue to stand guard until the fledglings are able to fly (28-30 days after hatching).

Adult Skimmer and young chick!

Because these birds nest primarily on beaches, the main threats they face are loss of habitat due to increased development and “traffic disturbance” by human activity (beach driving and other recreational activity), shoreline hardening, mechanical raking, as well as environmental challenges of oil spills, presence of
domestic animals, increased predation by raccoons, crows, opossums, etc., declining fish stocks and the impending threat of rising sea levels destroying nesting areas.  Most of the colonies in Florida are under protective management – often by volunteers or local land managers. This usually involves posting informational signs and “symbolic” fencing. As these birds are very sensitive to disturbance, few
of these colonies would survive without this active management and protection.  The Black Skimmer is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty and also by Florida as a “Species of Special Concern” by the Florida “Endangered and
Threatened Species Rule”.

The above information was gleaned from the “Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission” website – a wealth of information!
AND from the Audubon Field Guide
AND from “Birdadorable”

Photo credits go to Kathy Abbott.

Wildlife Week 2019

It’s Wildlife Week and The Wildlife Center of Venice has a special
bonus.  In 2018 we rescued 5,000 animals in South West Florida.  We get no direct government support.  We need YOU to help us.  If you donate a suggested $25.00 or more between 2/26 and
3/30 you’ll be entered in a drawing to win one of two special
Wildlife Walks with our Director Pam DeFouw.  A Picnic Lunch and a Wildlife walk.  What could be better?  Check out our drawing rules here.


(photo credits go to Kathy Abbott)

“There may be days when I can’t help an animal in need, but the day will never come that I won’t try.” 

That sentiment, written by Paul Oxton, environmentalist and animal activist in Africa, also exemplifies the feelings, attitude, and credo of Wildlife Center of Venice…a goal we strive to live up to every day.  In that spirit and in recognition of National Wildlife Week, we would like to highlight some of the wonderful creatures we are blessed with here in Florida and some of the challenges they and we face in protecting and preserving them.  We appreciate all of the help and support we receive in that quest.

Where are we now?

A report from the “Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission”, updated in December 2018 shows that the state of Florida has 144 species that are listed as “threatened” or “endangered” by either the state or federal government.  These include 15 Fish, 4 amphibians, 25 reptiles, 31 birds, 33 mammals and 36 invertebrates.  The full report can be found at https://myfwc.com/media/1945/threatened-endangered-species.pdf

Of those 144 species, the Wildlife Center of Venice works primarily with the bird and mammal categories (64 total) and has received and treated the following:

American Oystercatcher

Audubon’s Crested Caracara

Black Skimmer

Florida Burrowing Owl

Florida Scrub-Jay

Little Blue Heron

Florida Sandhill Crane

Roseate spoonbill

Tricolored heron

Wood Stork


These are in addition to the multiple bird (both native and migratory) and mammal species that are not officially listed as threatened or endangered and make up the bulk of our workload!

In our recognition of National Wildlife Week, we will profile (several) of the species on this list that the WCV has had as rescues/patients.

WCV's Mission Statement: To protect and preserve Southwest Florida's native wildlife through educational outreach, and to rescue, rehabilitate and release sick, injured and orphaned wildlife to their native habitat whenever possible.