My first evening with the cute baby Black Skimmers two weeks ago was so good that I had to return the very next evening to get another dose of my favorite summertime subjects. I know, I know, all the Florida nature photographers are posting Black Skimmer chicks right now. How many more shots can I get of cute little chicks trying to devour needlefish? Well…lots!! :) The colony is so much fun. I pick a spot with a good vantage point on several nests, lie down in the sand, and watch. The birds are so animated and cute. It’s a very special experience and one that I hope all wildlife photographers get to share at least once.
This was my favorite shot from the second evening. This nest had four chicks in it (the three pictured above, plus another tiny baby under Mom.) Dad had just flown in, and he got all the babies agitated with the hope of a fish. But Dad’s beak was empty! The oldest baby went to beg anyway. Two of the younger chicks started to fight, biting each other’s bills. The parents just sat there, probably wondering where the young ones got all their energy.
Nearby, this skimmer is still waiting for her first eggs to hatch. She sat patiently on the eggs all evening long. Only occasionally would she stand up, stretch, and then turn the eggs with her feet. Incubation for the Black Skimmers takes 21 to 25 days. That’s a long time to sit on eggs in a tiny scrape in the ground! Still, perhaps she was appreciative for the peace and quiet, compared to her boisterous neighbors in the next hole over.
This little family seemed to be feeding Junior his first fish. Look at how his fuzzy down is still wet from his egg! It never ceases to amaze me how such cute baby Black Skimmers can eat such big fish. I’m sure glad that my mother never tried to shove a fish the size of my head down my throat… :)
Yep, Junior, that’s a big mouthful! The tiny hatchlings will often struggle with a fish for several minutes, alternating between swallowing and panting, sprawled out on the sandy beach. In a few short weeks, they will be four or five times their current size, and then the fish exchanges will be much faster. The teenage skimmers quickly learn that if they don’t quickly gulp their food, the fish will be stolen away from them!
This little guy was lucky. His daddy brought him a nice small fish, and he had no trouble at all maneuvering it into his mouth. This year’s winner of the fish toss is…the baby from Hole #9!
See, wasn’t it worth the drive for another few hours with these little clowns? :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Black Skimmer Colonies?
Check out my Black Skimmer Colonies page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!