Black Skimmers Inspire
Photo courtesy Miriam Sutton.
With the dusk a strange bird came to the island from its nesting grounds on the outer banks. Its wings were pure black, and from tip to tip their spread was more than the length of a man’s arm. It flew steadily and without haste across the sound, its progress as measured and as meaningful as that of the shadows which little by little were dulling the bright water path. The bird was called Rynchops, the black skimmer.
—Rachel Carson, Under the Sea Wind
When she was writing her first book, Rachel Carson was not the first to be inspired by the iconic dance of black skimmers at our North Carolina Reserve, and she won’t be the last.
“Jet black above and white below,” the elegant skimmer comes to dinner dressed in its own tuxedo—and with a built in spoon. Skimmers are the only bird to have an underbite; their lower mandible is longer then the top. Day and night, they move with military-grade precision over the water’s surface, the long lower mandible plows through the water until it contacts a fish and the bill snaps shut.
For the staff at our North Carolina Reserve, the sight of feeding black skimmers means healthy estuaries, teaming with the juvenile fish that these birds need to survive and support the culture and economies of surrounding coastal communities.
Thank you, black skimmers! Your presence in North Carolina inspired Rachel Carson nearly 80 years ago and it inspires us today.
Have you had an encounter with a black skimmer or another critter at one of our Reserves? We’d love to hear about it! Share your Reserve story.