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Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Posted: Thursday 8th January 2015 by The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Kingfisher - Ed MarshallKingfisher - Ed Marshall


One of our volunteer rangers, Rebecca Etheridge, had a unique encounter with one of her favourite bird species. Her she tells us a little more about this wonderful bird.


Whilst bird ringing in early November, we caught this beauty in the mist nets, a female common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) one of my favourite bird species. The common kingfisher can be found throughout much of Europe, Africa and Asia choosing rivers, marshes and coastlands for habitats. Up to 95% of the kingfisher’s diet consists of the young of river fish like perch (Perca fluviatilis) and brown trout (Salmo trutta). Kingfishers also feed on adults of smaller fish species such as three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and stone loach (Noemacheilus barbatulus). As well as fish, the kingfisher will eat a variety of aquatic invertebrate species to spice the diet up a bit.

With bright, blue-green plumage and an orange breast the kingfisher is easy to identify. Though the genders are very similar, they can be distinguished by the colour of the beak. The beak of the males is completely black, whereas in the females the lower mandible is red in colour.

Kingfishers are susceptible to tonic immobility or animal hypnosis if turned on their back. Tonic immobility is a state of natural paralysis whereby the animal no longer responds to stimuli such as sounds and touch until held upright once again. It isn’t known why animals will enter this state. However, there are theories that it may be related to anti-predatory behaviour; cats for example, are more likely to chase a moving mouse than a still one.

Kingfishers can be spotted throughout the year and are most common where still water is present. Despite being relatively common throughout most of Britain, this bird remains difficult to spot due to its shy nature and is most often seen as a blue flash flying across a water body.


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