Courtship behaviour of the Indian Skimmer

on 22nd December 2009

As with many birds, feeding of the female by the male is an item of courtship in the Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis). The male offers a fish and the female accepts it (above left), clamping it in her bill (above right). Only then will she allow the male to mount her (below), followed by copulation (bottom). All this time the female holds on to the fish in her bill, swallowing it only after the act is completed.

“It’s fish for sex when you are an Indian Skimmer at Chambal River…” says Ingo Waschkies, who was in India recently to document the episode. “Actually it was quite funny, he arrived with two fish, then presented one as a gift. He ate his fish and then proceeded to do his skimmer thingie while she kept the fish for après.”

This courtship behaviour is similar to that of the Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) found in the Americas (Zusi, 1996).

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.

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

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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