They have very long wings. The back, hindneck, and crown are black. The forehead and rest of the body is white, with a bright, long, orange beak that ends with a yellow tip (black tip in immatures). Their short forked tail is white, and their legs are bright red. The average size is about 38 cm (15 in) long. Their voice is a sharp "kip-kip". Their bill structure is unique. The lower mandible is much longer than the upper mandible, and flattened sideways like scissor blades.
The African Skimmer is found from Senegal to northern Congo River and southern Nile Valley, southern Tanzania to the Zambezi Valley, and then to KwaZulu-Natal Province (South Africa) and Angola. They live at large tropical rivers with sandbanks, lake shores, and coastal lagoons. The African Skimmer is generally uncommon and the total populations is estimated at 15,000-25,000 individuals.
African Skimmers fly in lines over calm waters, and dip their lower mandibles in the water to feed. When the mandible touches a fish, the skimmer snaps its mouth shut. They feed mostly at dawn and dusk.
Pairs nest in loose colonies on large sandbanks. The colonies typically consist of less than 50 pairs and each pair lays 2–3 (rarely 4) eggs in a scrape in the sand.
- African Skimmer - Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds.
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