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 NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.