Many fish are known to occasionally eat birds that are floating or swimming, but new footage shows one soaring above water to successfully nab its prey.
While there have been reports of the African Tigerfish -- a predator with large teeth found in rivers and lakes -- leaping out of the water to eat low-flying birds, there had never been any caught on film – until now.
In the footage taken at Schroda Dam, a lake on the Limpopo River in the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa, a Tigerfish is able to successfully grab a swallow an agile bird that can hit speeds of 40 miles per hour.
The footage was taken as part of a two-week study by the Unit of Environmental Sciences and Management at the North-West University in Potchesfstroom, South Africa, according to the Daily Mail. Scientists observed as many as 20 successful attacks on low-flying swallows by African Tigerfish each day.
“As far as is known, this is the first confirmed record of a freshwater fish preying on birds in flight,” the Journal of Fish Biology reports.
The African Tigerfish either attacked the birds as they were swimming near the surface of the water, or performed a direct aerial strike from deeper water. The second strategy appeared to be more successful, according to the study.
Ironically, the Tigerfish’s pursuit of its avian prey also makes it more vulnerable to the African fish eagle, a common predator in the region.
But its risky behavior “may have been adopted out of necessity due to food limitation,” the researchers reported.
Other freshwater fish that are known to prey on birds that are swimming or floating on water surface are bass species, eels, and piranhas.