At first glance apart from being birds you wouldn’t think there was much these two had in common. One is a silent land based predator, the other a multi-coloured waterside assassin. But when it comes to digestion they have one thing in common, they both regurgitate pellets made up of the indigestible leftovers from their meals.
Most people know about owl pellets and may at some time have dissected one to find tiny bones or even skulls coughed out in a hard pellet. Not many people however know that kingfishers do the same but as the majority go straight into the river, lake or stream they are rarely discovered to take a closer look at. I once watched a kingfisher eject one into the grass and after it had flown off I endeavoured to find it. Nothing, it had just vanished!
Last night I managed to catch this behaviour on camera after I noticed the bird opening its beak very wide. I had an inclination as to what it was doing so fired away.
With its beak wide open the bird starts bringing up the pellet.
Here we can see the regurgitated pellet as it passes into the beak.
Finally the pellet is spat out, and as usual this one disappeared into the depths!!!
Apparently in North America a snipe hunt is an elaborate practical joke where unsuspecting youngsters are sent out into the wilderness to hunt a mythical creature, the snipe. Which seems a bit odd when the snipe actually exists!
The snipe is a medium sized and very shy wetland bird which is distinctive because of the size of it’s bill, in proportion to the bird it is huge! You’ll definitely know it when you see it. There are two types of snipe the common and the jack snipe. The jack snipe is a winter visitor to the UK whereas the common snipe is a year round resident.
A good place to spot them in the summer is perched on fence posts on the moors where they breed. Listen out for their distinctive call which isn’t created vocally but by them drumming their wings in flight as the males display for the females.
Their mottled brown plumage is superb camouflage and once they are on the ground in the heather or grass they are almost impossible to spot. They like wetland and marshes and a good place to spot them is around upland lakes, marshes and ponds where they feed close to the edge making it easy to quickly disappear if threatened into the rushes or grass.
They nest in shallow scrapes in the ground and they usually have up to four young. When they hatch the chicks will often split between the parents, with both adults caring for two young.
They feed on worms and insects that they find by probing their incredible beak into the the mud and feeling around for prey. Their beaks have nerves at the end which allow them to sense their prey without seeing it. This picture shows how they can open the very tip of their beak while inches down in the mud.
The term sniper comes from the hunting of these birds. Due to their erratic flight patterns it was thought to take an exceptional marksman to be able to take down one of these birds, hence the term.
I personally think there are much better terms for anyone shooting wildlife but I’m too nice to list them here!!!