SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The spectacular aerial ballet captivates as scores of skimmers gracefully soar over glassy waters dipping and diving as they scrape the surface for sustenance.
The world’s three species of skimmers are the only birds whose lower mandibles are longer than the upper. Only the Black skimmer occurs in the Americas, and some are year-round coastal residents in the Rio Grande Valley.
Handsomely attired in black and white tuxedos topped off with bright reddish-orange bills, skimmers are strikingly beautiful birds.
Nesting in joyfully chattering summer colonies, they prefer remote spoil islands in the Laguna Madre, although scattered groups form inland.
Early in the nesting season, after skimming the surface for fish, they frequently return to their nesting site with the catch of the day.
Arriving at the colony with a tasty fish secured in its bill, the male skimmer looks for a female to impress with his fishing prowess.
Sometimes, he plays hard to catch and struts with his fish as he proudly parades, while on other occasions no amount of coaxing seems to entice a female.
Finally, after finding no willing female to share his prize, the male takes flight, perhaps to try another colony with a more appreciative consort.
Bonded pairs perform intimate rituals as they chat and gesture with one another beak to beak before she judges the offering acceptable and gently reaches up to take her fish.
Skimmers make a simple scrape in the ground and take turns incubating as many as four eggs for up to 25 days.
The downy youngsters will be tended by both adults for approximately a month, and although only a couple of days old this little rascal already knows how to toddle up to its parent and snatch dinner from the bright beak.