Bird of the Week: African Skimmer

One of my most memorable encounters with a bird was on a river cruise on the Kafue River.  We came across an island in the river and there were two African Skimmers there.

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African Skimmers are one of only three species of the Skimmer family in the world and are considered near-threatened as it is believed their numbers are declining.  Skimmers have a unique bill shape.  Their lower mandible is much longer than their top which allows them to skim the surface of the water as they fly low over the river.  Then they grasp whatever small fish they manage to run into.

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As we pulled up to the island for a bit of a stop, the two adults took off and started flying around, but as it turns out, they were nesting.  So we very briefly took a look at their nest.  Trying to disturb both the adults and the nest as little as possible, we did not touch the nest, but we did take some photos.  The nest was just an indention in the sand really with one chick and one egg that had not yet hatched.  While we stood close to the nest, the chick never moved a muscle and with their excellent camouflage chick and egg would hopefully have been safe from any nearby predators. The way the chick stayed so still was uncanny and quite an amazing instinct.

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If I remember correctly, by the time we were back in the boat, we saw the chick up and running around, now that the island was all clear. I don’t think I will ever forget my close encounter with the African Skimmer chick.

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Here is another view of the adult.  Quite a handsome bird also.

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