Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)


Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis)


French: Bec-en-ciseaux à collier German: Indischer Scherenschnabel Spanish: Rayador indio

Rhynchops [sic] albicollis


, 1838,



Closely related to R. niger and R. flavirostris; some authors have suggested that all three might be conspecific, but good evidence apparently lacking. Monotypic.


E Pakistan (R Indus) through N & EC India to W Myanmar (R Irrawaddy). Winter visitor to NW Indian peninsula and coastal Bangladesh. Status in S Nepal, W Assam, inland Bangladesh and Cambodia (R Mekong) uncertain. Formerly recorded in S Laos and Vietnam.

Descriptive notes

38–43 cm; wingspan 102–114 cm; culmen 58–75 mm. Unmistakable within range; generally black above and white below, with broad white forehead and broad white... read more


A nasal “kyap, kyap” given by adults, likened to the bark of a small dog, while chicks... read more


Largely restricted to major rivers, particularly along calm stretches with sandbars; rare or... read more

Food and feeding

Fish, insect larvae and shrimps, often taken in very shallow water (just 3–4 cm deep). In one Indian study diet was dominated by the... read more


Generally mid Feb to Jun, with local variations dictated by water levels and colonies laying relatively synchronously, e.g. within two-week... read more


Moves upriver during season of low water, and down during period of floods. Occasionally visits... read more

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. Total population estimated at c. 6000–10,000 birds, or 4000–6700 mature individuals, and considered to be probably declining, but status very poorly... read more

Recommended citation

Zusi, R.L., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). Indian Skimmer (Rynchops albicollis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 May 2019).