Stork-billed Kingfisher – Stealing or Feeding?

posted in: Feeding-vertebrates, Kingfishers | 2

“The Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) is an uncommon resident of Singapore (above, adult). This species is usually solitary, but a pair can sometimes be encountered. There used to be a pair that could be spotted at Pasir Ris Park. Recently, to the delight of park visitors, birders and photographers, this pair had multiplied to form a family of four.

“From around mid April to early May 2013, this family of four kingfishers could be spotted on the branches of trees along both banks of Sungei Tampines that runs through Pasir Ris Park. To photograph all four in one frame will be a tall order. I can only manage an image with one kingfisher in focus with two others (not in focus) in the background as they usually spread out to perch separately. The fourth, not captured in the image, was on the opposite bank. The kingfishers were there for the fish. The juveniles were probably learning the ropes by watching and mimicking the adults.

“I was there on 4th May when an adult was witnessed diving into the water. With fish in between its mandibles, it flew to the opposite bank. Only after it perched did I realise that the fish caught was pierced by its upper mandible (above left). It began to prepare the fish by bashing it against the perch. It was about to swallow the fish (or so I thought) as it positioned the fish to align with its bill (above right). At this moment, out of nowhere, another kingfisher flew onto the perch to dislodge the first, and it seemed to be stealing its catch too (above right). As the first kingfisher landed on another perch, the second departed. It appeared to be wearing a grin as it left with the prize in its bill.

“Perception can deceive and may not be reality. It was only after downloading the pictures captured and studying them in detail that I realised that the second kingfisher was a juvenile. On hindsight, it is highly possible that the adult had indeed caught the fish to feed its juvenile. After all, the juveniles were still together with the adults; which meant that they were still dependent on the adults.

“The Stork-billed Kingfisher juvenile can be distinguished from the adult by its scaly breast and slightly more saturated colours on its feathers (above, juvenile). The juvenile also has a duller bill and its red eye-ring is less prominent compared to the adult.”

Kwong Wai Chong
29th May 2013

2 Responses

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