Fun Skimmer Facts For Kids

Oluwatosin Michael
Nov 21, 2022 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao
Skimmer facts about the three species of the skimmer bird.

With about three species recognized, skimmers are widely known members of the family Laridae. The tern-like seabirds included in the biologically classified genus Rynchops are the black skimmer of North America, African skimmer, and Indian skimmer.

All three members are known distinctly for their peculiar anatomical designs, which include lower elongated mandibles in comparison to their upper beaks.

A combination of black, white, gray, and red shades is known to adorn the bodies of skimmers. Skimmers are migratory birds and show varying locomotive patterns encompassing their winter, summer, and breeding seasons.

Read on to learn and discover some interesting facts about the members of the Laridae family. After reading these fascinating skimmer bird facts, do read our other interesting animal fact files on the puffin and magpie.

Skimmer Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a skimmer?

A skimmer is a biologically defined group of seabirds belonging to the Laridae family. There are three species of these avians with anatomically uneven beaks, that is, black skimmer (Rynchops niger), African skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris), and Indian skimmer (Rynchops albicollis), which are classified under the genus Rynchops.

What class of animal does a skimmer belong to?

Skimmers are the classified members of class Aves; that is, the biological classification of organisms characterized by the presence of forelimbs modified into wings, and the body is covered with feathers.

How many skimmers are there in the world?

There are no exact details about the skimmer’s global population for the avians belonging to the skimmer realm. The population of black skimmer species is quite stable as they are classified as the Least Concern on the conservation list.

However, their relatives, the African and Indian skimmer, face dire population threats. As of now, the Indian skimmer is recognized as an Endangered species, and African members are categorized as Near Threatened.

Where does a skimmer live?

Skimmers are a category of seabirds and, therefore can be typically spotted along the shores and water bodies. Black skimmers avians of the Rynchops genus are distributed over a wide range of surface habitats.

They are widely distributed along the terrains of North America and South America. Additionally, following their migratory patterns, the dwellers of the north are known to inhabit the warm water of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, whereas the southern members span as far as Costa Rica along with the north ranges.

What is a skimmer's habitat?

The black skimmer bird's habitat is along the aquatics biomes and wetlands such as estuaries, rivers or streams, coastal marshes, lagoons, and brackish water bodies. As in the case of terrestrial inhabitation, these avians can be located along with the salt marsh mats, beaches, pools, dredge spoil, mudflats, and coastal marshes.

These regions make skimming through water possible for the black skimmer.

Who do skimmers live with?

The black skimmer is a social avian and is known to flock together with other members of their species. Besides forming pairs with their partners, small to large colonies comprising as many as 50-60 members are observed.

How long does a skimmer live?

The average lifespan of skimmers forming the biological genera Rynchops and Lardiae family is about 20-25 years.

How do they reproduce?

The reproductive cycle in the black skimmer begins with males courting the potential female immediately after locating to the selected breeding locations. In a span of about a week, pairs are formed amongst the breeding colonies of these avians.

The black skimmer bird nests on sand or salt marshes. They are monogamous; that is, these birds mate with only one partner throughout the breeding season and in fact, are quite aggressively territorial when guarding their mates.

In order to further woo their partners for copulation, the male presents the female member with captured fish. The paired partner accepts and clenches the fishes in her beak, following which the male mounts the female for insemination.

These avians differ from their relatives of the terns’ clan, as in the case of terns, the female part generally swallows the offered feed before copulation, whereas in the case of Rynchops niger, feeding generally follows after the copulation. The black skimmer is to behold annual breeding procedures, usually during the warm summer months.

Following insemination and fertilization, the females lay about four or five eggs over a span of about eight days. The incubation period of black skimmer bird eggs ranges between 21-26 days.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, black skimmers have been categorized under the conservation status of Least Concern. However, amongst their relatives, the Indian skimmer is recognized as Endangered species, and African members are categorized as Near Threatened.

Skimmer Fun Facts

What do skimmers look like?

Besides the uneven and distinguishing designs of the beaks or bill in the skimmer (which contributes to their nickname scissor bill), the black skimmer avian category (which can be called the black and white skimmer bird) is further bestowed with a distinctive anatomical design of slit-shaped large pupil.

Such shaping facilitates the birds by providing them a binocular vision, helpful in hunting.

Dimensionally, black skimmers are the largest amongst the clan of skimmers.

The overlying part (including the crown and nape) of these avians are adorned in black shades, while the forehead and central part of the body is toned white.

The tails of black skimmers are short, and grey patterned with white tips or spots. The Rynchops niger possesses slender, red-shaded legs.

The shading of the underwing ranges from gray to white shades, while the forewings are black with white edges. Nicknamed as scissorbills, the lower mandible part of the bill of the members of black skimmers species are comparatively longer than their upper proportions.

This avian exhibits a long bill, the apex of which is adorned in black while the rear is in vibrant red shades.


How cute are they?

Black skimmers with their vibrant coloring and distinctive anatomy, are moreover elegant than adorable, sights to behold. On a scale of up to five, Black skimmers would easily secure a three or four for their grace and beauty.

How do they communicate?

The communication channel in these birds includes various bodily displays besides the vocal and visual receptions. Often the ‘kak-kak-kak’ sounds (resembling the barking of dogs) are known to be produced by the members of this species.

Besides the call, the binocular vision facilitates the hunting rituals of these avians. A number of aggressive displays have also been observed in members of the species.

How big is a skimmer?

Black skimmers are the largest among the three recognized members of the genus Rynchops. The average length of the avians of black skimmers species ranges between 16-18 in (40-45 cm).

How fast can a skimmer fly?

There are no exact details about skimmers’ flying speed. However, these avians are known to be quite agile and possess a particular grace and swiftness during their water hunting flights.

How much does a skimmer weigh?

The black skimmer's average weight ranges between 7.5-15.8 oz (0.21-0.44 kg). Exhibiting sexual dimorphism, the male members of the species with an average weight of about 12.3 oz (0.34 kg) are larger than their female counterparts, who stand at about 9.0 oz (0.25 kg) in terms of body weight.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males are referred to as male black skimmers while the females are referred to as female black skimmers.

What would you call a baby skimmer?

The offspring of black skimmers are referred to as young ones, juvenile, nestlings, or fledglings.

What do they eat?

The skimmer bird diet is carnivorous, particularly piscivorous (feeding primarily on fish). These birds hunt and feed on small fishes, mollusks, arthropods, insects, crustaceans, and several other small marine invertebrates.

Are they dangerous?

Skimmers are not typically dangerous. However, these birds may show aggressive behavior while protecting their territories, particularly during the breeding season. As for their behavior around human beings, skimmers are like any species are chary and alert.

Would they make a good pet?

Skimmers are extremely active and agile birds that need open surface spaces, particularly aquatic biomes, to fly about. It is not possible to provide this freedom to them as a pet. Therefore, these birds do not make for good pets.

Did you know...

The distinguishing characteristic of the species, that is, the difference in the dimension of the mandibles (lower longer than upper), is marked only in the adult avians of the black skimmer species. In fact, the black skimmer bird chicks are born with mandibles of equal length. It basically outgrows during the fledging rituals.

There are other names for the black skimmer including the Florida skimmer bird and Razor skimmer bird.

Indian skimmers are actually white skimmer birds with a black cap and an orange bill.

The skimmer bird wingspan can reach up to 42 in (106 cm).

The black skimmer is a tropical skimmer bird.

They survive through skimming. The skimmer birds feed through skimming the water by dipping their lower part of the bill in water to catch fish. This way they can hunt even at night.

The skimmer's adaptations

A major adaptation observed in skimmer birds is the rightful selection of breeding grounds to keep in order with the climatic as well as human threats. Besides, the hunting skills in water (skimming) aided by anatomical structure also facilitates the survival of these avians.

What kinds of skimmers are there?

The three species of skimmer that are well known are black skimmer (Rynchops niger), African skimmer birds (Rynchops flavirostris), and Indian skimmer bird (Rynchops albicollis), which exhibit the distinctive uneven anatomical designs of their beaks. The lower mandible part of the bill in these avians is comparatively elongated than the upper parts.

This feature has led to the nickname scissorbills.

Also, a basic similarity difference in the structure of the pupils of the black skimmer of North and South America (which is large and slit-shaped) in comparison to its relatives is observed. Adding to the structural difference, a contrasting range is observed in the habitation of these birds.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our pelican interesting facts, and gray catbird fun facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Skimmer coloring pages.

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

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Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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Fact-checked by Gowri Rao

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

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Gowri RaoBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

With a bachelor's degree in Economics from Krea University, Gowri is a highly skilled data analyst and an expert in regression and causation modeling. Her interests in economic trends, finance, and investment research complement her professional expertise. In addition to her professional pursuits, Gowri enjoys swimming, running, and playing the drums, and she is also a talented tutor.

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