Scientists tell us that a bird is simply an animal with feathers, but they often seem more than that. They are ethereal spirits in the air.
Consider the fluid beauty and graceful flight displayed by Carolina’s black skimmer. You may see the bird as you pause in early morning beside a lonely, sea-grass covered slope of a sand dune. Scanning the ocean waters, you may see a largish, black-backed, white-bellied water bird with long, slim black wings skimming the surface. Seeking fish, it plows a furrow in the water with its long, brilliantly orange red and black bill. R.C. Murphy described the uncommon hunting style of skimmers as “aerial beagles hot on the scent.”
A most unusual species, skimmers are the only known bird with a lower bill conspicuously longer than its upper. In feeding, this bird uses its fixed lower bill (mandible) to knife the surface and shallows with its longer bill open and frightens small creatures, such as minnows. In their attempt to escape they leap into the bird’s open mouth.
Skimmers are most active feeding during the dim hours of early morning and resume to their magic ways at dusk. They are more than animals with feathers. They are creatures who give wing to wonder.