To a Kingfisher, their territory is very important and any bird that cannot secure their own territory, with an abundant supply of food, will perish. By the middle of September, they start to find their territories but as freezing weather conditions set in they can be forced out of their territory and into conflict with other Kingfishers. Territories can cover at least 1 km but can often be around 3/5 km.
Their main diet is minnows and sticklebacks but will take freshwater shrimps, tadpoles, and aquatic insects. The size of the fish can vary but they have been known to catch anything up to 80mm long.
The perfect fishing place is a shallow pool of water with an overhanging branch and once the Kingfisher has seen a suitable prey it will dive. Upon entry into the water, its beak is open and its eyes are tightly closed making it temporarily blind as it catches the fish.
Having returned to the branch it will repeatedly hit the fish against the branch to kill it as this enables the spines in the fins of some of the fish to relax, allowing the bird to swallow it, head first.
Unfortunately, Kingfishers are very short-lived and many of their young will die before they have even learned to fish, driven out of their parent’s territory. Only half of the fledglings born will survive more than a week or two. The Kingfisher population is maintained even though the mortality rate is high.
A hard cold winter kills a high percentage of Kingfishers through lack of food but equally summer conditions can make fishing difficult too as summer flooding claims many Kingfisher nests.
Their main predator is the domestic cat, but rats are also a serious problem for Kingfishers. Agricultural contamination and industrial pollution into rivers kill the fish that the birds rely on, which then excludes them from many places.
There are more than eighty species of Kingfisher around the world, but only one is native to the UK so if you’re lucky enough to see a flash of blue near a river or stream it could be the beautiful Kingfisher.