A recent trip through Redfish Pass (between Captiva and North Captiva) gave me a great chance to see a large group of Black Skimmers, which I hadn't seen in years. The skimmer photographed here was actually captured on a golf course lake at The Sanctuary a few years ago. The large group of Skimmers we encountered recently were resting on a sandbar where they are often seen this time of the year as well as on many of our local beaches.

The skimmer has a strange, uneven bill that has a very important purpose. The lower mandible (bottom part of the bill) plows through the water as the bird flies low, snapping shut when it contacts a fish. Calm waters are a must for this feeding behavior which causes the skimmer to often be actively feeding in the late afternoon, overnight and in the early morning. Skimmers are commonly seen in South Florida during the winter months and breed during the summer months along the East coast from North Carolina to the New England coast. Due to it's uniqueness, the bird has gained many folk names such as the scissor-bill, shearwater, sea dog, razorbill and cutwater.

When foraging, skimmers often pay little attention to people, however colonies of resting skimmers are easily startled, especially in the beach setting. Be respectful and view them with a spotting scope without disturbing them. The Black Skimmer is a crowd pleaser for the novice and experienced birder alike. March is a great time of the year to get to the beach early and see if you can catch them in action. Good luck and bring a good camera!