Daily Star Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

One of our most recog­nis­able birds, the king­fisher is an in­cred­i­ble glit­ter­ing jewel in the coun­try­side. Found all over the UK ex­cept most of Scot­land (sorry Scot­land), this charm­ing bird of slow-mov­ing wa­ter­ways is a firm favourite among bird watch­ers ev­ery­where.

If you are lucky you might spot one sit­ting on a perch above a river, pond or canal as it silently watches for fish. Or you may just glimpse one fly­ing low and straight across the wa­ter with a blue glit­ter of sun­light shin­ing off its feath­ers.

What you may not know about these birds is that like trou­ble­some teenagers they have got some of the most dis­gust­ing bed­rooms in all the bird world…by which, of course, I mean their nests. King­fish­ers use holes in river­banks and are known for leav­ing them strewn with poop and fish bones. They never even take out their dis­carded lit­ter. Dis­grace­ful!

They are in­cred­i­bly un­lucky birds. Some can lay as many as 30 eggs in a sin­gle year yet still lose most of their chicks (maybe if they kept the place cleaner they wouldn’t be so un­lucky?).

Chicks which make it out of the nest of­ten die on their first flight – land­ing on the wa­ter and drown­ing. Ouch!

And when harsh win­ters freeze slow-mov­ing wa­ters up to 90% of the adult pop­u­la­tion can be killed off at a stroke. So it’s pretty amaz­ing that we ever see these birds

at all. They pair up in the au­tumn but keep sep­a­rate ter­ri­to­ries all win­ter and fi­nally come to­gether in spring – I guess ab­sence makes the heart grow fonder in the case of king­fish­ers. But then, when they have such dirty liv­ing habits who would be in a hurry to move in to­gether? Re­gard­less of how filthy their homes might be, there are still few things more beau­ti­ful than this charm­ing lit­tle bird!

De­spite all this, things are slowly get­ting bet­ter for the king­fish­ers. We no longer hunt them to use their feath­ers in hats, and our wa­ter­ways are now cleaner and well stocked with fish – a re­lief for these lit­tle jew­els.

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