"The Black Skimmers Need Our Help!" Photograph and Text by Cissy Beasley

The Black Skimmers need our help! Most folks have, at one time or another tossed a morsel to a Laughing Gull. From fishermen at the cleaning stand, to kids and adults at the park during a cookout, and other places where there are humans and food, Laughing Gulls have learned that it's easy to eat when they hang out with people.

While the Laughing Gull diet consists of human offerings and whatever other meals the birds can find or are given, many might be surprised to learn that Laughing Gulls will also readily steal, kill and eat baby birds.

Anyone watching the Black Skimmer colony nesting at Rockport Beach Park in June might've seen a gull swoop down and grab a Skimmer chick right out from under its parent's breast. Such upsetting sights have been, unfortunately, pretty common this year.

The Skimmers do what they can do fend off these attacks, but the gulls - especially at the park because of people feeding them - have become aggressive and know that baby Skimmers make easy targets. Gulls will also steal and eat Skimmer eggs, effectively killing the chick before it's even born.

I am writing to WWN today to ask that park visitors not feed the Laughing Gulls, and that WWN readers ask others not to as well. It is my hope that if enough people are aware of the gulls' practice of stealing and killing Black Skimmer chicks - and the babies of other birds - then the food supply from humans will stop and the gulls won't gather at the park in such large numbers.

The Black Skimmer population is declining, and even approaching threatened status. Because of this, we should do all we can to reduce or eliminate the Laughing Gull threat to their numbers. The Rockport colony is a gift to this community, and I believe we owe it to these special birds to do all we can to protect them. Not throwing food to the gulls seems a small thing to do in exchange for the good we will do a group of baby birds, which are, otherwise, exposed to constant danger from a preventable threat.

There are other things that can be and will be done to discourage the gulls from nesting at the park, but not feeding them is something every single adult and child in Rockport can do to help. Wouldn't it feel good to know that every time you saw a beautiful Black Skimmer, you knew that you had a part in that bird being alive?

For updates to efforts to help the Black Skimmers, please visit and "like" our Facebook page at Save the Rockport Skimmers!

Respectfully submitted,
Cissy Beasley

Comments

Sherry said…
I own a home in Rockport but have recently had to move to San Antonio to care for my sick father. I came down this last weekend. People were feeding the gulls all around me which ended up with poop all over me and my truck. I agree with not feeding the gulls. Ill do my part to help out. I wanted to go to the circle at the park but it was closed. :( so I just dealt with the poop. Lol. Thank you for caring.
Anonymous said…
Had a birthday party at the park for my Grandson and the gulls swooped right down and took hot dogs right off the hot grill! But kids and tourists love to feed the gulls, so the only thing to stop it would be a city ordnance.
Anonymous said…
Maybe or some signs from the Nav District. A little education couldn't hurt. But people are so worried about taking that "pleasure" away from tourists, like they wouldn't come back if they couldn't feed the gulls. Silly.
Anonymous said…
Did you know gulls are actually a protected bird in Texas. "Gulls, both young and old, their eggs, parts, and nests are Federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. A federal permit must be obtained from the US Fish & Wildlife service prior to performing any type of depredation activity involving these birds." I don't know for sure, but isn't feeding a protected bird against the law? I agree though, some signs explaining why it's a bad idea would be helpful. It won't deter everyone, but even the 20% of people who would abide by a sign might help make a difference. Thank you for this info, Cissy.
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure if you're aware or not but there is a lot of signage around the circle where the birds nest. The ACND also hands out to visitors a brochure asking anyone, not just tourists, to NOT FEED THE BIRDS. We can't force them to obey this suggestion. And if an ordinance were put into place, how could it be enforced? There was a "bird meeting" held last Tuesday and it was discovered by the camera's that are in place around the nesting areas that it's also us, by us I mean amateur and professional photographers and just curiosity seekers, that get too close to the nesting birds to photograph them &/or the chicks. Once "we" get within a certain distance (the birds decide this) they fly off the nest and this allows the opportunity for the gulls to have easy access to the skimmer eggs/chicks. There are a lot of suggestions that are being discussed at the ACND to better protect the skimmer chicks and legally cut down on the seagull populations. Speak with Keith Barrett, ACND Harbor Master or Malcolm Dieckow, ACND Commissioner for more details or to make suggestions.
Anonymous said…
Just received more information from Commissioner Dieckow that there will be a public meeting held in the early fall which will include the ACND representatives, Parks and Wildlife Representatives and the "bird" representatives from National Marine Wildlife and Aransas County. Date and time ill be posted so that everyone can gather and discuss how to go into the 2015 nesting season with changes that will further assure the safety of the skimmer chicks.
Anonymous said…
I think I remember, from years ago, when the skimmers nested on the other side of the road on open beach, reading that the reason they did so was because the adult birds could spot predators. The city of Rockport decided to "move" the nesting grounds to the other side of the road for the "protection" of the nesting birds and to open up more beach to tourists. The current nesting grounds seem to be pretty overgrown compared to open beach. Maybe part of the solution would be to clear the area of vegetation after nesting season is over.




















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