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Tigerfish catches bird: Video of fish catching bird in flight stuns scientists

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The tigerfish catches a bird video is stunning scientists because while there have been legends about tigerfish jumping out of the water to catch birds, no one had actually ever witnessed the natural occurrence until now. “This is the first confirmed record of a freshwater fish preying on birds in flight,” reported Nature on Jan. 9, 2014.

The video of a tigerfish catching a bird mid-flight was taken on a South African lake in the Mapungubwe National Park, near the border with Botswana and Zimbabwe.

“The whole action of jumping and catching the swallow in flight happens so incredibly quickly that after we first saw it, it took all of us a while to really fully comprehend what we had just seen,” said Nico Smit, who is the director of the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University in Potchefstroom in South Africa.

According to Nico Schmit, when he and his team of researchers spent time on the South African lake, they were aware of the legends that African tigerfish (Hydrocynus vittatus) were able to jump out of the water to catch their meal -- but it was the last thing that they expected to see.

While studying animal migrations and their habitat on the South African lake, Nico Smit and his team of researchers didn’t just see one tigerfish catching his meal out of the air, but they saw several.

“Nevertheless, during their time at the lake, the researchers saw as many as 20 successful fish strikes on barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) every day. These ranged from pursuits by fish at the surface, followed by leaps, to direct attacks from deeper water.”

In order for a tigerfish to catch a bird in flight and straight out of the air, the freshwater fish has to be precise and quick since swallows are known to be speedy birds. As Nico Schmit described it, “after the images did sink in, the first reaction was one of pure joy, because we realized that we were spectators to something really incredible and unique.”

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