Water-cutting (lat.Rhynchopidae) is a family of seabirds from the order Charadriiformes. The family includes three species forming one genus (Rynchops). Sometimes water-cutters are considered as a subfamily of gulls.
The African water cutter (Rynchops flavirostris) and the Indian water cutter (Rynchops albicollis) inhabit fresh water bodies in tropical latitudes. The black water cutter (Rynchops nigra) lives along the coast of North America. Water cutters like to live in small groups near lagoons or river banks, hunting prey in shallow water.
One of the features of water cutters that distinguishes them from all other birds is the extremely narrow, not round pupils. Another feature is that the lower part of their beak is noticeably wider and longer than the upper one. Due to the fact that its tip becomes dull and worn out over time, the beak is constantly growing. The wings and beak are relatively large in relation to the rest of the body. The short legs are colored red or yellow, while the plumage of the water cutters is black and white.
Water cutters hunt not only during the day, but also at night. Their main prey includes fish, which they catch flying directly above the surface of the water and "combing" it with the lower part of the beak, due to which the water cutters got their name. When it touches the fish, the beak closes instantly. With the head thrown back, the prey is then swallowed.
African water cutter
The species range is Africa from Senegal to the lower reaches of the Nile, the basin of the Congo and Zambezi rivers, Angola, Kenya, Tanzania. To the south, African water cutters are found up to KwaZulu-Natal. Birds live near fresh water bodies, but they are also found near the sea coast.
1. Description of the species
The African water cutter is a bird with a body length of 35 - 40 cm, slightly larger than an ordinary gull, but with longer wings. The plumage is predominantly black-brown, white below and on the forehead. The beak is orange-yellow, yellow at the tip.
African water cutters can hunt fish around the clock, but more often at night. The prey is caught by flying over the water, dropping only its beak into it.
Monogamous. Breeds in single pairs or in colonies of up to 25 breeding pairs. However, they are often combined with other species. The nest is a deep hole in moist soil that both parents dig. Usually, several holes are dug, then one of them is selected. The nest is located on river shallows near the water. Nesting occurs in August - October. In clutch there are from 2 to 4 whitish or yellowish eggs with dark specks. Both parent birds take part in incubation, which lasts from 20 to 22 days. Chicks leave the nest 1 - 2 days after hatching. The brood period lasts 5 - 6 weeks.