IF YOU’RE extremely lucky, you may occasionally glimpse a kingfisher on our stretch of the river – and if so, treasure the moment because these brilliantly-coloured birds are becoming increasingly-rare as more of their habitats are destroyed.
Their numbers also suffer during really cold weather of the kind we’ve experienced through early January.
I’ve been lucky enough to see them on a couple of occasions – once in Sunbury and again at Penton Hook – and each time the bird’s appearance has given me a real lift.
The brilliant blue and orange plumage is very distinctive and their rapid aerobatics as they swoop across the surface of the water in search of their fishy prey are a joy to behold.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds estimates there are now somewhere between 5,000-8,000 breeding pairs of kingfishers left in the UK and although they are not listed as an endangered species, kingfishers have suffered over the years because of unsympathetic management of water courses.
Kingfishers don’t migrate but tend to skim around during colder months looking for fast-flowing rivers and streams.
During the breeding season, between April and July, the birds tend to favour more slowly-moving waters as long as they are bordered by a steep bank in which a breeding hole can be dug.
Both partners share the job of digging a burrow, that can be anywhere between 40 and 100 centimetres in length. The pair normally produce two broods – one between April and June and second between June and July. Each clutch will typically consist of six to seven eggs that will hatch after incubating for 18 to 21 days.
The young emerge from the nesting chamber after about three to four weeks, during which time the adult birds keep them supplied with food consisting of small fish, crustaceans and water insects.
Keep an eye out for these delightful residents – and if you do spot one, or any other rare bird, please let me know.