WEEK-BY-WEEK BIRDS TO SEEK: WEEK 37 KINGFISHER

EVERY WEEK THIS YEAR WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST

This week, it is Kingfisher

This week we look at a bird which is among the most familiar and iconic of all British birds. Yet, ask most people and they will say they have never seen one in real life. If you showed them a photograph they could name it in an instant, but finding one in real life is another matter. Everyone knows that Kingfishers are bright blue above with orange underparts, and a long fish stabbing bill.

But until you actually see one, you may not be aware quite how small they are. A Kingfisher is about the size of your fist; they are pretty small birds, and though brightly coloured in full sunlight, can be remarkably difficult to see as they perch dead still low down in shade over the edge of a lake or side of a river.

Most birdwatchers locate Kingfishers by their loud, high-pitched, piercing calls, a bit like the seep call of a Dunnock, but usually more disyllabic and much louder and more painful on the ear. They may look very pretty but they don’t have a matching beautiful voice! After hearing the sound, birders look up and see what they expect to see, a tiny ball of electric blue fire, whizzing along at high speed directly on whirring wings, just above the water or even across a field.

Watch to see where it lands, then set up a scope or binoculars to see  the perched Kingfisher doing its stuff: sitting dead still then plunging into water and back in less than a second.

The only other thing you need to know is that the bright electric blue is restricted to the middle of the back, so don’t expect the whole bird to be the same shade.

Classic perched Kingfisher

Classic perched Kingfisher

Plunge diving Kingfisher

Plunge diving Kingfisher

Note that from the front, Kingfishers are predominantly orange

Note that from the front, Kingfishers are predominantly orange

All photos from Alamy