Thursday, July 2, 2009

Chambal diary: 3. Indian Skimmer

Skimmers are unique in having a longer lower mandible relative to the upper - a bird with a permanent pout if you will. They use this amazing "device" to literally skim the water surface (photo below) snapping the beak shut when they come into contact with a fish. The Indian Skimmer is therefore very easy to identify being the only skimmer species in India. They, like the Gharial, are exclusive fish-eaters.


One of the largest known populations of the Indian Skimmer is located in the National Chambal Sanctuary. They, like the other terns, use the islands to nest in. This charismatic, attractive species is a superb indicator of undisturbed rivers. Here are some Skimmer photos showcasing its habits.

Skimmers, fortunately, never have to go far to bathe!

Pair-bonding prior to mating and egg-laying is very important. Above, a male (larger bird on the left) gives the smaller female a gift of a fish before they set up their family for the year.

Both parents take turns to incubate eggs, and feed chicks. The two pictures above show a nest-change - one bird settles in on the eggs after feeding, and the other takes a break. The bird coming in wets its breast and belly feathers before restarting incubation duties to ensure that the summer heat does not bake the eggs. Small Pratincoles also incubate eggs of their own beside the skimmer's nest.

In the absence of directed persecution, Indian Skimmers appear to be able to persist in the presence of some human disturbance. The National Chambal Sanctuary is bounded by villages along its entire length whose people use the river in various ways. So far, this use does not seem to be affecting the skimmer population.

The Indian Skimmer and The Gharial - two species entirely reliant on unpolluted rivers with good fish populations and islands in the summer months to breed on.

(All photos were taken in the National Chambal Sanctuary, Etawah on Apr 9 and 10, 2009.)

5 comments:

  1. VERY NICE AND DEDICATED EFFORTS IT APPEARS TO BE.SIR, I APPRECIATE YOUR WORK AND ENTHUSIASM WHICH IS REQUIRED IN THIS FIELD.I M ALSO WORKING IN THIS FIELD AND FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE IND.SKIMMER IN GANGETIC BASIN AT NARORA.KINDLY HELP ME.

    JITENDRA PANDEY
    jitendra.pandey1967@gmail.com
    09410015237

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  2. amazing photos and shoots, you are a very talented photographer Gopi. I love the color of those skimmers' peak, that is a beautiful red and with a little yellow it looks so cool!

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  3. Hi, great Blog. The way you explained it is really awesome and makes every one to read till the end. Keep posting..

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