SKIMMER, the English name bestowed by T. Pennant ' n 1781 on a North American bird which had already been figured and described by M. Catesby (B. Carolina, i. pi. 90) as the " Cut-water," as it appears still to be called on some >arts of the coast, 2 remarkable for the unique formation of ts bill, in which the maxilla, or so-called upper mandible, is capable of much vertical movement, while the lower mandible, vhich is considerably the longer of the two, is laterally compressed o as to be as thin as a knife-blade. This bird is the Rhynchops nigra of Linnaeus, who, however, united with it what proves o be an allied species from India that, having been indicated many years before by Petiver (Gazoph. naturae, tab. 76, fig. 2), >n the authority of Buckley, was only technically named and lescribed in 1838 by W. Swainson (Anim. Menageries, p. 360) s R. albicottis. A third species, R. Jlavirostris, inhabits Africa; ind examples from South America, though by many writers egarded as identical with R. nigra, are considered by Howard aunders (Proc. Zoo/. Society, 1882, p. 522) to form a fourth, he R. melanura of Swainson (ut supra, p. 340). All these " I call it Skimmer, from the manner of its collecting its food ith the lower mandible, as it flies along the surface of the water " len. of Birds, p. 52).
2 Other English names applied to it in America are " Razorbill," Scissorbill," and " Shearwater."
resemble one another very closely, and, apart from their singularlyformed bill, have the structure and appearance of Terns (q.v.). Some authors make a family of the genus Rhynchops, but it seems needless to remove it from the Laridae (see GULL). In breeding-habits the Skimmers thoroughly agree with the Terns, the largest species of which group they nearly equal in size, and indeed only seem to differ from them in the mode of taking their food, which of course is correlated with the extraordinary formation of their bill. (A. N.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)