Black Skimmer Rynchops niger

  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Laridae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
  • Authors: Kara L. Lefevre



Aside from foraging (See Diet and Foraging), no studies of Neotropical Black Skimmer behavior were discovered in preparation of this account. Consult Gochfeld and Burger (1994) for general information about skimmer behavior.


Little or no information from the Neotropics. Generally Black Skimmers, which breed colonially, defend only a very small space surrounding the nest (Gochfeld and Burger 1994).

Sexual Behavior

Black Skimmer is at least socially monogamous.

Social and interspecific behavior

Black Skimmer is highly gregarious, nesting colonially and often loafing in large flocks in the nonbreeding season. Typically, Black Skimmer nests in the same colonies with more aggressive terns (although some colonies contain strictly skimmers, e.g. some in Pinellas County, Florida and in Texas). In North America this can include Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) at the northern distributional limit of the skimmer, while in the south co-nesting species include Least (Sternula antillarum), Forster’s (Sterna forsteri), and Gull-billed (Gelochelidon nilotica) terns, and Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla); see details in Gochfeld and Burger 1994). Black Skimmer nestx with Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus) at selected sites along most of the Pacific coast of Mexico (Mellink et al. 2007). In South America, skimmers usually nest with Yellow-billed (Sternula superciliaris) and Large-billed (Phaetusa simplex) terns (Preston 1962, Krannitz 1989, Zarza et al. 2013).


Black Skimmer eggs and nestlings are highly vulnerable to predation (Gochfeld and Burger) but this aspect of their biology is little studied in the Neotropics.

Recommended Citation

Lefevre, K. L. (2018). Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.