My favorite species of birds in The Netherlands…The Kingfisher. Kingfishers are small unmistakable bright blue and orange birds of slow moving or still water. They fly rapidly, low over water, and hunt fish from riverside perches, occasionally hovering above the water’s surface. They are a vulnerable to hard winters and habitat degradation through pollution or unsympathetic management of watercourses. Kingfishers are listed as protected because of their unfavourable conservation status in Europe.
Common Kingfishers are found near lakes, ponds, canals, streams and slow moving rivers of Europe, north Africa and Asia. Each individual secures a territory with an adequate food supply and this is usually a stretch of river between 1 and 3 kms (0.6 – 1.9 miles) in length. Common Kingfishers are between 16 and 17 cms (6.3 – 6.7 inches) in length, they have a wingspan between 24 and 26 cms (9.5 – 10 inches) and they weigh between 35 and 40 g (1.25 – 1.4 oz). They have bright blue upper parts with their underside and ear coverts being orange in colour. They have white patches on each side of their neck and on their chin. Their legs are red with a dark blue stripe and males have a black bill where as the bill of females is black with a reddish/orange base.
Common Kingfishers have rapid, whirring wing beats that produce low, quick flight and they have loud, high-pitched vocalizations. Common Kingfishers feed upon fish, aquatic invertibrates and amphibians. They have a regular perch from where they fish which may be a few inches or a few feet above the water. When they spot potential prey the dive into the water and seize it then return to their perch where they swallow it head first.
Common Kingfishers begin to form pairs in February and they construct a nesting tunnel in a sandy bank usually over a water source. The tunnel is usually 60 – 90 cms (24 – 35 inches) in length and approximately 6 cms (2.4 inches) in diameter. The nest chamber has a slight depression and they line it with fish bones and disgorged pellets.
Females lay 5 – 7 round pinkish/white eggs and both parents incubate them for 19 – 21 days. When the chicks hatch they can each eat 12 – 18 fish per day and they are fed in rotation. When the chicks reach 24 – 25 days old they are ready to leave the nest and once they have left the adults feed them for a further 4 days before they drive them out of their territory.
Common Kingfishers lay 2 – 3 broods of eggs per year, the first in April, the second in July and occasionally a third brood in October. The young reach sexual maturity with a year and are ready to breed by the next breeding season. I will be hosting my 1:1 Kingfisher photography workshops during their breeding season from March untill August depending on the number of nestings per season. For more information please check the workshops page on this website or contact me for more information.