Stork-billed Kingfisher’s fishy antics

posted in: Feeding-vertebrates, Kingfishers | 4

“After watching the fly-past of Singapore’s three new Jerdon’s Baza (Aviceda jerdoni) celebrities yesterday, I stopped off at a couple of other birding haunts before going home. One of these was the mangrove boardwalk jetty on the Sungei Tampines where I watched the comings and goings of the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) colony there.

“I noticed two Stork-billed Kingfishers (Pelargopsis capensis) rush past me and fly into some trees near the concrete bridge a hundred metres up-stream from the jetty, so when I was leaving I went to the bridge to see if I could find them.

“As I approached, I could see one of the kingfishers in a riverside tree exhibiting rather odd behaviour. It was leaning forward on the branch on which it was perched, with its bill wide open, and looking every bit as if it was extremely annoyed at something, but making no noise. This went on for perhaps a minute, by which time I had managed to set my camera and start taking photos (above left). A few seconds later, to my astonishment, a largish (relative to the size of the bird) fish appeared in its bill as if by magic (above right).

“Clearly the kingfisher had shortly beforehand swallowed the fish whole, and probably alive, and either it was stuck deep in it’s throat (it is nowhere to be seen in the earlier image), or the fish moving around in its stomach bothered the bird, and the behaviour I had seen was the bird gagging silently in an effort to regurgitate the fish. Amazingly, when it was finally able to cough up the fish, the kingfisher was able to keep it in its bill and not drop it. The images above and below (left) show it over the next 60 seconds tossing the fish in the air, banging it hard on the branch, and repositioning it in its mouth.

“Then, just as suddenly, the fish was gone again, and the kingfisher stretched its neck as it slid down its gullet (above right). After which all seemed back to normal, and the bird sat relaxed on the branch watching the river flow past below.”

[Note: according to the time recorded in the images, the whole sequence took exactly 90 seconds]

Howard Banwell
10th February 2011

4 Responses

  1. Poh Bee

    a most breath-holding 90 seconds Howard. Congrats for great capturing of the 90 seconds 🙂

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