o The Frog Blog: Transition Year Work on the Common Kingfisher

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Transition Year Work on the Common Kingfisher

The eurasian or common kingfisher Alcedo atthis is perhaps one of our most attractive but elusive birds, often just glimpsed as a flash of turquoise zipping along the banks of undisturbed streams and rivers. They are wide-ranging, and are found from Northern Europe through the Mediterranean and Middle East to Asia and New Guinea. Kingfishers belong to the Order Coraciiformes, and are about 16 cm to 18 cm long when adult, with a distinctive orange, blue and black plumage and red legs. They feed on small fish and water insects, and have also been known to prey on frogs, worms, spiders and centipedes. They have a characteristic fast-flapping flight which is followed by a gliding phase, and a distinctively harsh call (but no ‘song’).

Kingfishers are typically found near slow-flowing streams and rivers, and perch on overhanging branches in order to hunt. They are highly territorial, and remain solitary until pairs form in the Autumn (they are generally monogamous). Nests are built at the end of burrows dug in to vertical sandy banks by both members of a pair. About 5-7 glossy white eggs are typically laid, and incubated by both parents in the daytime, but only by the female at night.

When hunting the kingfisher dives into the water and opens its wings - keeping sight of its prey due to a specially developed third transparent eyelid. A second fovea in the retina allows for the refraction of light underwater and gives binocular vision thus allowing accurate judgement of distance between predator and prey.

Rabindranath Sheeran, Alicia Rodriguez, Leonhard Dihlmann and Mena Fitzgibbon

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