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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 8:42 EDT

African Skimmer

The African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris), is a species of bird that is found from Senegal to northern Congo River and southern Nile Valley, southern Tanzania to Zambezi Valley, and to Natal and Angola. They live in wide tropical rivers with sandbanks, lakeshores, and coastal lagoons. It is rarely seen in parklands.

Adults are 15 inches long on average. Their wings are long. The back, hind neck, and crown are black. The forehead and rest of the body is white, with a bright, long, orange beak that ends with a yellow tip. Their short forked tail is white, and their legs are bright red. Their bill structure is unique. The lower mandible is much longer than the upper mandible, and flattened sideways like scissor blades. The call is a sharp “˜kip-kip’.

African Skimmers fly in lines over calm waters, and dip their lower mandibles in the water to feed. When the mandible touches a fish, the skimmer snaps its mouth shut. They feed mostly at dawn and dusk. Pairs nest in loose colonies on large sandbanks, and lay 1-4 eggs in a large scrape.

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African Skimmer