Black Skimmer Rynchops niger

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

Priorities for Future Research

Priorities for future research about the ecology of Black Skimmer in the Neotropics include augmenting our understanding of the behavior, dispersal, and population genetics of this species, especially in South America.

Taxonomic descriptions of the three subspecies depended heavily on the measurement of museum specimens. Further studies of live individuals may help to clarify general patterns in distributions and latitudinal size differences (Murphy 1936).

Prior authors have noted that the behavior of the species is not well known, especially in South America (Belton 2000, Scherer et al. 2013). In writing this account, I came across no studies that evaluated the sounds, vocal communications, or other behaviors of Neotropical Black Skimmers. This is an area that remains wide open for investigation.

Population genetics are also virtually unexplored. Further studies should apply a broad range of molecular markers, plus improvement of extant banding efforts and the study of additional populations (i.e., beyond the few that are already well-studied, in Brazil and Argentina). This will augment understanding of the dispersal mechanisms of this species, along with any possible genetic isolation of distinct populations (Mariano-Jelicich and Madrid 2014). For example, the origin of the high abundance of Black Skimmers at Mar Chiquita Coastal Lagoon in Argentina remains to be explained.

As is true of most South American birds, the migratory pathways of Black Skimmers are poorly known, yet mapping them is critical for the conservation of mobile organisms (Davenport et al. 2016). Indeed, the surprising results that these authors obtained with even a small sample size of satellite-tracked individuals shows how much remains to be unraveled about the ecology of skimmers, and South American birds generally. They caution that future research efforts to disentangle Black Skimmer dispersal should be undertaken in the context of the region’s complex flood-pulse ecology (Haig et al. 1998).

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.