Keep an eye out for black skimmers on Pinellas beaches

Black skimmers have returned to Indian Shores and Indian Rocks Beach, and they will soon be choosing their nesting site in a colony of up to 300 individuals.

Black skimmers are returning to Indian Shores and Indian Rocks Beach, and they will soon be choosing their nesting site in a colony of up to 300 individuals. These seabirds are colonial and make “scrapes,” or small depressions, in the sand. Each pair will have 3-4 well-camouflaged eggs, and both parents will work hard to raise their helpless, downy-covered chicks. Once eggs are laid, Audubon Florida staff will install symbolic fencing to help people know where the eggs are. But when the beaches reopen, the black skimmers will really need your help!

Audubon staff is limited due to COVID-19 response guidelines, which means that skimmers and their nests may not be roped off immediately. Eggs will be at a higher risk since they blend in so well with the sand. Skimmer parents are great at defending their eggs against predators such as gulls and crows, but they need a little extra help to make sure they can successfully hatch chicks.

Tips for Helping the Black Skimmers:

• Keep your distance and respect posted areas. If the birds become upset, you are too close. Take a few steps back until the bird(s) have settled down. Signs and rope help keep people from accidentally stepping on eggs or chicks.

• Avoid flushing birds. Large flocks of black skimmers are gathering to choose a spot for their colony. Running through flocks will scare the birds, causing them to fly away. This could leave eggs unattended and vulnerable to predators and the hot sun.

• Keep pets off the beach and away from nesting areas. Even the friendliest dog will spook an entire skimmer colony.

• Avoid feeding wildlife, especially the gulls and crows. Also remember to throw away trash. Attracting predators near the colony puts the nests at risk for predation.

• Spread the word. Tell others how they can help these incredible birds!

Do you have Black Skimmers on your beach? Did you find a nest? Contact Holley Short, project manager of Audubon Florida (holley.short@audubon.org) or visit www.FLbeachbirds.org.