Black Skimmer


Black Skimmer in South America

Scientific name: Rynchops niger

Family: Rynchopidae

Spanish name: Rayador

Migration: Partial Neotropical migrant

Population estimate: 25,000-100,000 ([1])

Ramsar Criterion 6 (1% level): 1,000 ([1])

Trend: Stable ([1])

IUCN Conservation status: Not known to have unfavourable conservation status

Distribution and abundances

Widely distributed in South America with two subspecies. R. niger intercedens distributes along large rivers of east Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and north-east Argentina south to Bahía Blanca (breeds in Entre Ríos, Corrientes and north of Buenos Aires province), winters mainly along the Atlantic coast of South America. R. niger cinerascens distributes along the coast of Colombia to the mouth of Amazonas River and west Ecuador (gulf of Guayaquil), south to Bolivia and northwest of Argentina; winters on coasts from Ecuador to southern Chile and from Panama to north-central Brazil. Highest abundances recorded along the coast (Suriname, south-central Peru, central Chile, southern Brazil, Uruguay and central Argentina) and inland within La Plata basin (link to Abundances map). Sites reaching the 1% threshold (Ramsar Convention Criterion No. 6) are: the coasts of Suriname, Reserva Nacional de Paracas and Lagunas de Mejías in Peru, mouths of Rio Reloca and Rio Lluta in Chile, Laguna de Rocha and mouth of Arroyo Valizas in Uruguay, and Albúfera Mar Chiquita in Argentina.


Migration and seasonality

Breeds along warm coasts and large rivers of South America and in Pantanal. Non-breeders of R. niger intercedens disperse along the Atlantic Flyway, staying on coasts and estuaries mainly from December to May, but migration is poorly documented. Non-breeders of R. niger cinerascens suspected to cross the Andes of southern Colombia on migration to the Pacific coasts of Peru and Chile (link to Seasonality map).



Both in coastal and inland wetlands, including sandy beaches, mudflats, tidal pools and creeks, mouth of rivers, saltmarshes and coastal lagoons, estuaries and mangroves stands. Inland along large rivers during the low water season. Also recorded in the High Andes lakes, up to 3,900 m on the Altiplano of Bolivia.


Habits and interactions with human activities

Gregarious species, sometimes in mixed flocks with gulls, terns and shorebirds. After the breeding season in big numbers. Sometimes overlapping with human activities, especially with tourism and fishing in estuaries and harbours.



Canevari, M., P. Canevari, G.R. Carrizo, G. Harris, J. Rodríguez Mata & R. Straneck. 1991. Nueva Guía de las Aves Argentinas. Fundación Acindar. Santiago de Chile. Tome I: 200 pp. and Tome II: 182 pp.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds). 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Ed., Barcelona.

Fjeldsa, J. & N. Krabbe. 1990. Birds of the High Andes. Zoological Museum, Univ. of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Iribarne, O. (Ed.). 2001. Reserva de Biosfera Mar Chiquita. Características físicas, biológicas y ecológicas. UNESCO / Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata. Editorial Martín. 319 pp.

Narosky, T. & D. Yzurieta. 1987. Guía para la identificación de las aves de Argentina y Uruguay. Asoc. Ornitológica del Plata. Vázquez Manzini Ed. Buenos Aires. 345 pp.

Olrog, C.C. 1963. Lista y distribución de las aves argentinas. Opera Lilloana IX, Tucumán.

Olrog, C.C. 1968. Las aves sudamericanas: Una guía de campo. Tomo I. Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Fundación - Instituto Miguel Lillo, Tucumán, Argentina.

Petracci, P.F. & K. Delhey. 2005. Guía de las aves marinas y costeras de la ría de Bahía Blanca. Bahía Blanca. 96 pp.

Rodríguez Mata, J., F. Erize & M. Rumboll. 2006. Guía de Campo Collins – Aves de Sudamérica: No Passeriformes. Harper Collins Ltd.

Wetlands International. 2006. Waterbird Population Estimates – Fourth Edition. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.




Authors: Daniel E. Blanco, Román Baigún & Bernabé López-Lanús

Data compiler: Darío Unterköfler 

Photographer: Pablo F. Petracci

Recommended citation: Blanco D.E., R. Baigún & B. López-Lanús. 2008. Black Skimmer in South America factsheet. Wetlands International for the Global Avian Influenza Network for Surveillance / WCS / USAID.




([1]) Subspecies Rynchops niger intercedens





Click on the link to download the factsheet in pdf format: Black Skimmer



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