|Chicks with mom pictured here are from 2015|
It's nesting time for laughing gulls and black skimmers at Rockport Beach Park. This rookery is a highlight for many visiting birders and locals who love to see the skimmers and their chicks. The Aransas County Navigation District has now closed off the "circle" to allow nests to be undisturbed. Cars and people can not enter the restricted area.
Black skimmers are remarkable birds and their knife-thin reddish-orange and black bill sets them apart from other American birds. The lower bill is longer than the upper mandible so that the bird can drag its bill through the water catching small fish. Black skimmers breed in colonies and the mother bird scrapes a nest in the sand where she will lay 3-5 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs for about three weeks. The baby's mandibles will be the same length at birth to facilitate eating. After another three weeks the baby birds can fly. (The chicks with mom pictured here are from 2015; we won't see chicks for another month or so.)
It's important to protect the nesting area. Human or vehicular traffic frightens the parents who will fly at you to protect their eggs and young. (And they can be quite scary as they swoop in to warn you away!) While they are telling you to go away, laughing gulls swoop in to steal the eggs or the chicks. Please understand that the birds can't read the signs and may be outside the protected area. Baby birds can't fly to get out of the way of your truck or car. Even when the start to fly they are not strong and experienced for awhile.
They are climate endangered birds and Rockport and the Coastal Bend are one of the few places where they can regularly be seen. Thanks to care by our visitors and residents, the population may be increasing slightly but they can be wiped out by a storm or heavy predation. Be careful, drive slowly, stay out of the preserve, and help protect this wonderful treasure.
Jeanette Larson is a retired librarian and author. She and her husband, retired architect and artist Jim Larson, moved to Rockport several years ago for the birds, the beach, and the coastal community.