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acrylic on illustration board 24" x 30"
The peculiar skimmers are related to gulls and terns, and live near fresh or saltwater bodies in the warmer regions around the globe. The three species, one African, one Asian, one American, are all quite similar in appearance and behavior. The lower mandibles of these birds are much longer than the upper -- an adaptation well suited to their unique method of foraging. A feeding skimmer flies just above the water, plowing the surface with its lower bill. When a fish is encountered, it is snapped up and consumed. Another peculiarity of the skimmers is the presence of a vertical pupil, which is found in no other bird. This allows a wider range of light to enter the eye, which is useful to fowl that spend a lot of time resting on white sands reflecting the tropical sun, but which also regularly feed at night. The Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) ranges along the coast and along rivers from the southeastern U.S. to Brazil.