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Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher Kingfisher Both Sexes
Bright blue upper parts and orange-red under parts.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Alcedo atthis
Length: 16-17 cm (6½-6¾")
Wing Span: 24-26 cm (10")
Weight: 35-40 g (1¼-1½oz)
Breeding Pairs: 4 600 - 7 600
Present: All Year
Status: Amber

Description

The Kingfisher is a small and plump with a very short tail but has disproportionately large head and long dagger-like bill.

Its plumage is beautifully bright: the back and tail are iridescent "electric" blue, the crown and wings are greenish-blue. The underparts and cheeks are an orange-red, and the throat and collar are pure white. The legs are red.

The sexes are very similar, the main difference being the colour of the lower mandible: the male's bill is all black while the female's is black with red on the lower mandible.

Juveniles are similar to adults, but the plumage is duller and greener and the tip of the bill is white.

Their flight is fast and direct and often very low over the water, and so all you see is a bright blue flash as they pass by.

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Call
  Quicktime mp3

There is much dispute as to whether Kingfishers have a song. Whether or not they do, the commonest call is a shrill whistle "chi-keeeee".

Feeding

Freshwater fish are the main part of the Kingfisher's diet, but they will also take aquatic insects and more rarely crustaceans, molluscs and small amphibians.

When fishing, they perch on a branch over or close to the water watching and waiting for a fish to swim by. They dive in to the water for the fish, inevitably catch it, and then return to the branch where they will stun the fish before swallowing it head first.

Nesting

The nest is usually in a tunnel, 30-90 cm (12-36") long, in a bank next to slow-moving water. The tunnel is excavated by both sexes and is not lined with any material.

The eggs are white, smooth and glossy, and are almost round at 23 mm by 20 mm. The male and female take turns incubating the eggs, and both adults feed the young.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
late April 2-3 6-7 19-21 23-27

Movements

British birds are mainly resident, but in the winter harsh weather may force birds towards the coasts.

From mid-summer to autumn, young birds move away from their natal grounds, though rarely further than 50 km (30 miles).

Conservation

Kingfishers have returned to many once polluted rivers in industrial towns and cities. Despite this, pollution remains a threat, especially in Europe, and the Kingfisher remains an amber listed species of conservation concern.

My Garden

I have not seen a Kingfisher in the neighbourhood, but a Kingfisher was reported (2001) at Hazel Pond in the local woods.

Further Reading

"The Kingfisher", Shire Natural History


Last revision: 21 Feb 2015
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2015.
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