Black Skimmer

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Gary R. Graves, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Graves had an early childhood fascination with birds that eventually led him to his role as curator of birds at the National Museum of Natural History.

Photo by Don Hurlburt, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Gary Graves is a research zoologist and curator of birds at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where his research focuses on the ecology, biogeography, and evolution of birds. His early childhood fascination with birds led to graduate studies at Louisiana State University and Florida State University: "I am unapologetically curious about natural history and the ways that natural history observations catalyze important ecological and evolutionary discoveries." His dissertation work focused on speciation of birds in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He has also conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Polynesia, Canada, and in more than half the states in the USA. His current research efforts are split between the analysis of complex data sets based on the collective resources of the World's great museums and conducting field research in Jamaica, the great forests of the eastern USA, and in the Sonoran Desert.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
Courtesy of Hans Zwitzer via Flickr: EOL Images, CC-BY-NC-SA


About Gulls and Shorebirds (Order Charadriiformes): Habitat

Shorebirds are so-named because they typically feed along shores of rivers, lakes, or oceans. Shallow water tends to be teeming with small animals (such as insects, crustaceans, and juvenile fish) that make up the diets of shorebirds. Estuaries (shallow areas where rivers meet the ocean) are particularly rich in prey, but shorebirds may even find habitat in the shallow waters of a flooded agricultural field or seasonal pool of water. Shorebirds are adapted to take advantage of shallow-water food resources wherever they occur. But, shallow water habitats tend to be unstable, vulnerable to drying out, draining, or freezing. With long, tapered wings and light bodies, most shorebirds are excellent flyers, able to travel to other feeding areas when necessary. Shorebirds include some champion migrators, such as terns and plovers that travel many thousands of miles each year between breeding and overwintering areas