It’s often the shrill call that alerts me to the presence of a Wilden Marsh kingfisher. Sometimes it’s an iridescent blue flash zooming a foot or two above the river that catches my eye and, occasionally, I see a kingfisher actually perched on a tree branch, twig, or fence post. Kingfishers fly at only one speed: fast and straight, but they can hover when fishing. The brilliant blue of the kingfisher’s back feathers is not a result of pigment, but is a function of light striking specially modified layers of feather cells.
As far as I can tell, there are three kingfisher territories on the marsh.
There are 87 different species of kingfisher in the world, but only one, Alcedo atthis, breeds in Europe.
Few British kingfishers ever move more than 250km; freezing weather, though, will prompt them to move to the coast. Severe winters can lead to as many as 90% of Britain’s kingfishers perishing; an individual bird will eat around fifteen minnows each day. kingfishers counteract high mortality amongst their young by hatching two or three broods a year, with as many as 10 chicks in each.
Though fish form the main part of the kingfisher’s diet, it also eats many aquatic insects, ranging from dragonfly nymphs to water beetles.