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.