By Charles Darwin
has short legs, web feet, extremely long pointed wings, and is about
the size of a tern. The beak is flattened laterally, that is, in a
plane at right angles to that of a spoonbill or duck. It is as flat
and elastic as an ivory paper-cutter, and the lower mandible,
differently from every other bird, is an inch and a half longer than
In a lake near Maldonado, from which the water had been nearly drained, and which, in consequence, swarmed with small fry, I saw several of these birds, generally in small flocks, flying rapidly backwards and forwards close to the surface of the lake.
They kept their bills wide open, and the lower mandible half buried in the water. Thus skimming the surface, they ploughed it in their course; the water was quite smooth, and it formed a most curious spectacle to behold a flock, each bird leaving its narrow wake on the mirror-like surface. In their flight they frequently twist about with extreme quickness, and dexterously manage with their projecting lower mandible to plough up small fish, which are secured by the upper and shorter half of their scissor-like bills.
Save More Money
On ALL Your Insurance Needs
|This fact I repeatedly saw, as, like
swallows, they continued to fly backwards and forwards
close before me. Occasionally when leaving the surface
of the water their flight was wild, irregular and rapid;
then they uttered loud harsh cries. When these birds are
fishing, the advantage of the long primary feathers of
their wings, in keeping them dry, is very evident. When
thus employed, their forms resemble the symbol by which
many artists represent marine birds. Their tails are
much used in steering their irregular course.
These birds are common far inland along the course of the Rio Parana; it is said that they remain here during the whole year, and breed in the marshes. During the day they rest in flocks on the grassy plains, at some distance from the water. Being at anchor, as I have said, in one of the deep creeks between the islands of Parana, as the evening drew to a close, one of these scissor-beaks suddenly appeared. The water was quite still, and many little fish were rising.
The bird continued for a long time to skim the surface, flying in its wild and irregular manner up and down the narrow canal, now dark with the growing night and the shadows of the overhanging trees. At Montevideo, I observed that some large flocks during the day remained on the mud-banks at the head of the harbor, in the same manner as on the grassy plains near the Parana; and every evening they took flight seaward.
From these facts I suspect that the Rhynchops generally fishes by night, at which time many of the lower animals come most abundantly to the surface. M. Lesson states that he has seen these birds opening the shells of the mactrae buried in the sandbanks on the coast of Chile; from their weak bills, with the lower mandible so much projecting, their short legs and long wings, it is very improbable that this can be a general habit.
Even before Captain Cook sailed the seas, some cultures realized that certain foods met specific medicinal needs. For example, ancient Egyptians found that eating liver could help cure night blindness, which the physicians of today believe is a result of vitamin A deficiency. Click HERE for your free copy.
YOU can help the seventy Five Million people who are suffering from being overweight, underinsured, pregnant, unable to afford insurance, or afflicted with pre-existing conditions that NOBODY will cover. You can really help. Click HERE and tell your friends all about it.
Start Birding * The 767 Page Bird Finder Book Pet Birds * Building houses for wild birds * The Raven, by Edgar Alan Poe * Improve your bird-spotting skills with our free videos. * Learn how to identify these birds... * Pigeons R Birds 2 * Where to Put the Bird House * Birds of East Africa * The Loon * The Scissor Beak * Attracting Birds to watch * The #1 Sport of America * Why Watch Birds? * Basics of bird watching * Successful Bird Watching * The Thunder Triplets were born during a rolling thunder storm in Tennessee * Building a Bird House * Building Fancy Bird Houses + Bird House Problems * Shooting Bird Houses ++ Uninvited Guests * The orphans you find * Window Collisions * Traveling For The Birds * Quads for Deep Country Birding * The American Eagle * The Condor * The Canary * Observe Birds in Peru * Go Where the birds Are * Chickens Are Cute Little Carnivores * Write About Your Favorite Birds * ANYone can enjoy birding, ANY Time * The Umbrella Bird * A Truce Between Man and Birds * Pet Birds