Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)


Fresh water fish constitute a large part of the Kingfishers diet, especially minnows and sticklebacks. They will also feed on aquatic insects and occasionally crustaceans and tadpoles. When catching its prey the Kingfisher will perch on a branch over or by the stream where it can locate a suitable target and assess the depth of the water. Diving down into the water, the Kingfisher will be effectively blindfolded as it opens it beak to catch its prey. It will then return to its perch where it will swallow the fish whole.


A small and plump bird, the Kingfisher is similar in size to a house sparrow and has a long dagger-like bill and relatively large head. The two sexes are very similar in their markings with the exception of the bill which is black for the male with a reddish base for the female. Adult Kingfishers have a green crown, nape and wings with a bight blue back and tail. The under parts and cheeks are orange, with the throat and collar being white, their legs and feet are coral red. Juvenile Kingfishers lack the brilliance of the adults and tend to have a bluish-grey breast and legs and feet which are a dull orange. The Kingfisher has a shrill whistling call and is similar to a Starling’s bubbling whistle.


Kingfisher live in both wetland and woodland habitats and will usually nest in tunnels in stone-free banks of slow moving streams. The tunnels, which are normally between 30-90 cm (12-36") long, are excavated by both the male and female and are usually about 0.5m from the top of the bank. To protect their eggs from predators, Kingfishers will tend to choose banks which are free of vegetation. Kingfishers do not bring any materials to their nesting sites; instead the eggs are laid in a slight hollow at the end of the tunnel which prevents the eggs from rolling out. Normally 6-7 glossy white eggs are laid in March or early April and both sexes will share the incubation duties for an average of 19-21 days. Depending on the abundance of food in the area, the chicks will tend to leave the nest after 24-25 days. Kingfishers will re-use their tunnels for up to 2 or 3 broods, starting the next brood 4 days after the young have left the nest.

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