Collared Kingfisher catches a froglet

Francis Yap’s series of photographs of the Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris) catching a froglet in a monsoon drain is a unique study of the bird’s hunting behaviour.

From a nearby perch, the sharp eyes of the Collared Kingfisher must have noticed the froglet moving along the bottom of the drain. As the bird dived in, the froglet scampered off (above). The extra long legs of the latter allowed it to make a rapid getaway, but not fast enough. In the excitement of the chase, the kingfisher’s feet made contact with the feet of the froglet.

From the images above it would appear that the kingfisher caught the frog with its feet. However biologist Dr Leong Tzi Ming does not believe that there was any attempt by the kingfisher to intentionally grasp the froglet with its feet, as in the case of raptors and shrikes: “If this were so, its feet would be firmly/deliberately splayed open in preparation to strike, or wrapped round the froglet. The apparent ‘contact’ between the froglet’s legs and the bird’s feet is merely coincidental, in the heat of the chase, as Subaraj suggested.” Tzi Ming believes the unfortunate amphibian to be a juvenile Crab-eating Frog (Fejervarya cancrivora).

Had the action been on video, we would be able to ascertain, panel by panel, how the kingfisher actually captured the froglet. And how the prey ended up in the bill. Anyway the kingfisher managed to transfer the froglet to its bill (above left), flew off to its favourite perch (above right) where the prey was bashed lifeless (below left) before being tossed into the air and swallowed head-first (below right).

Our nature consultant R Subaraj has this to add: “Kingfishers are great opportunists, when it comes to diet. Take that fantastic shot of a White-throated Kingfisher with a Paddyfield Pipit in its bill, that was posted on the blog previously. I have also observed the Stork-billed Kingfisher with a frog (possibly Crab-eating Frog in its bill, at Sungei Khatib Bongsu, many years ago.

“The Collared Kingfisher is probably the most adaptable, not only in food items, but in nesting sites. That is why it has been successful in adapting to our urban and sub-urban environments. It would be interesting to compile a list of its diet items that have been confirmed so far. Apart from aquatic fish, prawns, snails and insects, it has been observed taking a variety of terrestrial insects, snails and lizards, including geckoes and the Garden Supple Skink (Lygosoma bowringii). Just yesterday, Shamla Subaraj observed a Collared Kingfisher capturing a Common Sun Skink (Eutropis multifasciatus) at Mount Faber Road…”

This post is a cooperative effort between NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

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