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Skimmer Island

This restoration site is part of the Maryland Coastal Bay’s Trail to Restore the Shore project! Click on this story map link to learn more about this location and the other restoration sites part of this trail!

Located in the Sinepuxent Bay just north of the Rt 50 bridge, this island is closed to the public from April until September so nesting birds are not disturbed.

Skimmer Island is an important island in Maryland for nesting colonial waterbirds. The Island’s namesake is the black skimmer, an unusual bird that feeds on small fish by skimming along the surface of the water. This island is the primary nesting spot in Maryland for the state-endangered black skimmers. It is also a critical nesting site for the state-endangered royal tern and its smaller cousin, the common tern.

It also provides ideal nesting habitat for American oystercatchers, glossy ibis, and several species of egrets and herons.

The island did not exist prior to the formation of the Ocean City inlet in 1933. Following the massive storm that opened the inlet, a slow natural process started that formed sandy shoals. The addition of buttresses to the Rt. 50 bridge in the 1970s accelerated sand deposition, and the sandbars eventually poked above the high tide line and formed the island, which is now managed by the State of Maryland. By the mid-1980s, there was enough sand on the island that the Black Skimmers and Royal and Common Terns found it suitable for nesting. By the mid-90s, Skimmer Island became the primary real estate in Maryland for these colonial nesting waterbirds.

In the late 1990s, the island was over seven acres in size, but by 2009, with rising sea levels, erosive tidal currents reduced it to just over two acres.

MCBP partnered with the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage and Sunset Marina on a project that took clean dredged sand from a nearby channel to build back the lost acreage that same year to preserve this important island. Unfortunately, the island is currently undergoing severe erosion. Black skimmers and royal terns have not had successful broods the past 2 years.

Skimmer Island Audio Tour

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