Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Brooks, G.L.*, F.J. Sanders, P.D. Gerard, and P.G.R. Jodice. Daily survival rates for nests of Black Skimmers from a core breeding area of the Southeastern USA. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126:443-450.


Little is known about the reproductive success of Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) throughout the southeastern USA where availability of undisturbed beaches for nesting is limited. Daily survival rates (DSR) of nests were examined at three nesting sites in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge (CRNWR), South Carolina, USA, 2009–2010. The percent of successful nests (n = 346 nests) ranged from 42–69% among colony sites when data were pooled across both years. The DSR of nests was primarily related to colony site, predation risk, height of high tide, and clutch size. Predation and overwash were the principal causes of identifiable nest loss, each accounting for ~33% of nest failures during the 2 study years. Because of the challenges of resighting skimmer chicks, we were not able to measure chick survival effectively and therefore accurate measures of productivity remain elusive. High variability in nest success among sites within close proximity to each other (<20km) suggests factors at local scales such as disturbance, predation, and overwash events strongly influenced nest success of Black Skimmers during these 2 years as opposed to more region-wide stressors such as tropical storms or food availability. Although time-intensive techniques to control predators do exist, management options to limit flooding and overwash are far more limited. Conservation of Black Skimmers in the southeastern USA would benefit from coordinated, multi-state efforts to measure nest and chick survival