Sunday, December 13, 2015

Skimming Along

Black Skimmer Colony
After so many rainy days, we were delighted to cut short a non-productive birding day and just soak up some sun on the beach. The local colony of Black Skimmers came up from the public beach to visit with us for a change.
The Black Skimmer is the only American representative of the skimmer family. The other two, rather similar, species are the African Skimmer and the Indian Skimmer. All use the same unusual feeding method. Although the Black Skimmer is active throughout the day, it is largely crepuscular (active in the dawn and dusk) and even nocturnal. Its use of touch to catch fish lets it be successful in low light or darkness. I guess this is why I've never seen them feeding along the beach.
The Black Skimmer has one of the most unusual foraging styles of any North American bird. A feeding skimmer flies low over the water with its bill open and its lower mandible slicing the surface. When the mandible touches a fish, the upper bill (maxilla) snaps down instantly to catch it. They feed on small fish up to about 5 inches in length, including herring, killifish, mullet, and pipefish, and  also may consume small crustaceans. Black Skimmers may travel 5 miles from their breeding colony in search of food.
As the shadows started to grow, we moved up by the pool, to join the crowds gathered around two iguanas grazing in the grass.  They sure look like something from a Japanese science fiction movie, don't they?
Since these are mostly green, I think they are not the same species as the ones with orange spikes, legs and talons we saw other places. They are all non-native run-aways from the exotic trade business. People buy them when they are cute little babies, then when they get several feet long, their owners just turn them loose. We took a cruise on the Intercoastal Waterway one evening, found at least a dozen of them hiding under the causeway bridge when it went up.

1 comment:

Nadya W-G said...

Hello! Stumbled upon your blog while looking for gull pellet information-- and would like to pitch in a note about green iguanas. The orange coloration on the crests/legs of the larger ones would be the breeding 'plumage' of adult males. :)