The Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis) forages exclusively be skimming the water in flight, with the mouth open and the lower mandible submerged (above). As soon as a prey item, mainly fish and shrimps, touches the mandible, it is immediately grasped while the head doubles back under the body. The prey is then swallowed while the bird is still in flight or after landing.
The structure of the bill is well adapted to skimming. The long upper mandible is shorter than the lower (above). Both are compressed laterally to form a thin, streamlined structure. This reduces water resistance as the lower mandible ploughs through the water.
Skimming depends on touch rather than on sight, thus permitting the bird to forage during dusk or even at night.
The Indian Skimmer is confined to the northern part of the Indian sub-continent, extending to West Myanmar and Cambodia.
Input and images by Allan Teo.
Zusi, R. L., 1996. Family Rynchopidae (Skimmers). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.) Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 668-677.