Stork-billed Kingfisher and the tilapia

posted in: Feeding-vertebrates, Kingfishers | 5

K N Pan’s image of a Stork-billed Kingfisher (Halcyon capensis) with its bill speared through the body of the common tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) took some two months of hard work to document. He had to stalk the bird, study its habits and locate its favourite perches before he could get a good shot.

According to Fry & Fry (1992), Stork-billed Kingfisher takes fish up to 10 cm long. If so, the bird in this picture must have made a record catch. The tilapia caught is definitely much longer, as it can grow up to 40 cm long. Considering the size of the fish, it is no wonder that it was caught through spearing.

The bird has a prominently large and sharp bill, straight and dagger-like, characteristic of species that dive for fish. The bill can be as long as 80-90 cm, relatively long for the bird’s body size.

The kingfisher sits quietly on a branch above the water until it spots a fish. It then plunged down, bringing the fish back to the perch where it is bashed against the branch until immobilised.

Fry, C.H. & K. Fry, 1992. Kingfishers, bee-eaters and rollers. New Jersey, Princeton University Press. 324 pp.
2. Woodall, P. F., 2001. Family Alcedinidae (Kingfishers). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 6. Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 130-249.

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

5 Responses

  1. Larry Jordan

    Absolutely unbelievable capture of this beautiful Kingfisher in flight, and with a huge catch too. These guys are very fast movers and I am very impressed with that shot. Great work guys! I always enjoy your behavioral rich posts.

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