The Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a striking electric-blue and orange coloured bird but the feathers on the bird’s back can look blue or green depending on the angle you are looking at the bird. This happens because of the different wavelengths of light produced between the layers of feathers. Although the Kingfisher has these bright noticeable colours it very rarely seen as it is extremely shy and it can fly and beat its wings so quickly that it almost looks like a blur to the eye! But if you hear a shrill ‘chreee’ or ‘chee-kee’ it may well be a Kingfisher.

Kingfishers can be found throughout the UK near slow-flowing rivers and streams, canals, lakes and ponds. An ideal fishing perch for this bird in on a firm branch overhanging water. It prefers to perch motionless when hunting for fish, but sometimes the Kingfisher will hover over its prey and then quickly dive into the water. As it dives into the water the Kingfisher opens its beak and then closes its eye by using a third eyelid so when the Kingfisher grabs the fish it is in effect blindfolded. How clever is that! The fish is immediately taken back to the perch where the Kingfisher strikes it a few times against the branch in order to stun the fish. It does this because some fish have very sharp spines on the fins and it is only when the fish is stunned that the spines relax enabling the Kingfisher to eat it. The Kingfisher always turns the fish around so that it can swallow it head first. Kingfishers must eat at least their own bodyweight in food each day in order to survive, and although fish is their main diet they will also eat some aquatic insects such as mayflies, stoneflies and water beetles.

When the male Kingfisher wants to impress a female he offers her fish and if the female accepts they form a bond and courtship begins. Both the male and female dig a tunnel in a bank close to water so they can nest their eggs there. No material is brought to the nest. The female lays six to seven white glossy eggs around March time and both parents incubate them for about twenty-one days until the chicks hatch. Both parents feed the chicks and once a chick has been fed its moves to the back of the nest so it can digest its food and then the other chicks move forward which means every chick takes it in turn to get some food. Chicks are usually ready to leave the nest after about a month and then are fed for about another four days by the parents. After that though they are driven out of the territory and have to fend for themselves.

Photo Credit: © Copyright David Tomlinson