Waterbird fishing tactics

26 February 2010

by Frank Japhet, Guide - Chada Katavi

When we were on our way to set up a fly camp at Paradise, we saw concentrations of water birds such as fish eagles, marabou storks, yellow bill storks and great white pelicans at the swamp. These birds were cooperating to disturb fish as a tactic to catching them.

The great white pelicans were fishing and eating, but when disturbed they disgorged the fish from their stomach to reduce their weight, so they could fly. When they did so the fish eagles came and snatched up the fish which were being disgorged.

The pelicans are very efficient in fishing. They were using the whole flocks to form two lines, each line from the other side of the bank and meeting in the middle. They were swimming and beating the water surface violently with their wings, to drive a school of fish into the shallow water where it was easy to scoop them up with their beak. During that time, marabou storks and yellow bill storks stayed along the edge of the swamp and caught small fish insects, toads and frogs which were avoiding disturbance from the pelicans.

As well, we saw a fish eagle catching big fish of about 3kg which was too big for the fish eagle to fly with. But fish eagle dragged it to shore using it’s wings as paddles. It was very interesting to see these actions.

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