Is a Black Skimmer a tern?

Answered by Michael Wilson

A Black Skimmer is indeed a tern. The distinctive bill of the Black Skimmer is one of its most fascinating features. Unlike most birds, the lower mandible of the Black Skimmer is significantly longer than the upper mandible. This unique adaptation allows the bird to skim the water’s surface in search of prey.

I remember the first time I saw a Black Skimmer up close. I was immediately struck by the bird’s unusual bill. It was elongated and slender, with the lower part extending well beyond the upper part. It almost looked like the bird had a mismatched pair of scissors for a bill. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

This specialized bill is perfectly suited for the Black Skimmer’s feeding behavior. As the bird flies low over the water, it skims its bill along the surface, with the lower mandible slicing through the water. When it detects a fish or other small prey item, it quickly snaps its bill shut, capturing its meal.

The bill of the Black Skimmer is not only functional but also visually striking. The contrast between the bright orange-red of the lower mandible and the black of the upper mandible is quite striking. It adds to the bird’s overall beauty and uniqueness.

While the bill of the Black Skimmer is certainly its most notable feature, it is not the only characteristic that sets it apart as a tern. Like other members of the tern family, the Black Skimmer has long pointed wings and a streamlined body, which allow it to be agile and maneuverable in flight.

Additionally, the Black Skimmer exhibits other behaviors typical of terns. It is a coastal bird, often found near estuaries, salt marshes, and beaches. It nests in colonies and lays its eggs directly on the sandy ground, rather than building nests in trees or on cliffs like some other bird species.

In terms of appearance, the Black Skimmer has a black upper body with a white underbelly. Its wings are dark on the topside and pale underneath, creating a striking contrast in flight. It also has a distinctive black cap on its head, which adds to its overall elegance.

The Black Skimmer is a fascinating bird that stands out from the crowd. Its unique bill, coupled with its tern-like characteristics and striking appearance, make it a true standout in the avian world. Whether you encounter one in the wild or simply admire it from a distance, the Black Skimmer is a bird that leaves a lasting impression.