Skimmers (Rynchopidae)

Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) - HBW 3, p. 676

French: Bec-en-ciseaux noir German: Amerikanischer Scherenschnabel Spanish: Rayador Americano
Other common names: American Skimmer

Taxonomy: Rynchops nigra Linnaeus, 1758, America = coast of South Carolina.
Forms superspecies with R. flavirostris and R. albicollis; some authorities have suggested that all three might be conspecific, but good evidence apparently lacking. Species name changed from nigra to niger, when all genera ending in -ops were ruled as being of masculine gender. Races cinerascens and intercedens formerly considered to constitute two further species, on account of white, as opposed to dusky, on wing linings and tail, and amount of white edging on secondaries; however, variability of these characters is more consistent with subsp.. View all taxonomy...

Taxonomy: Rynchops nigra Linnaeus, 1758, America = coast of South Carolina.
Forms superspecies with R. flavirostris and R. albicollis; some authorities have suggested that all three might be conspecific, but good evidence apparently lacking. Species name changed from nigra to niger, when all genera ending in -ops were ruled as being of masculine gender. Races cinerascens and intercedens formerly considered to constitute two further species, on account of white, as opposed to dusky, on wing linings and tail, and amount of white edging on secondaries; however, variability of these characters is more consistent with subspecific differentiation. Dubious race intermedia (W South America) normally included within cinerascens; proposed race melanura is synonymous with cinerascens. Three subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution:

  • niger Linnaeus, 1758 - coasts of USA (S California; Massachusetts to Texas) and Mexico (Sonora to Nayarit; Tamaulipas to Yucatán Peninsula); winters from California and North Carolina S to both coasts of Panama.
  • cinerascens Spix, 1825 - coasts of Colombia to mouth of R Amazon and W Ecuador (Gulf of Guayaquil), and large river systems (especially Orinoco and Amazon) S to Bolivia and NW Argentina; winters on coasts, from Ecuador to S Chile, and from Panama to Trinidad and NC Brazil.
  • intercedens Saunders, 1895 - large rivers of E Brazil (W to Maranhão and E Mato Grosso), E Paraguay, Uruguay and NE Argentina (S to Bahía Blanca); winters mainly on coast.