British wildlife recordings
Alcedo atthis : Kingfisher - Alcedinidae
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Brownsea Island, Dorset: OS Grid Reference(402500,88500)
Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis
The call of the kingfisher, recorded on Brownsea Island, Dorset. The kingfisher is quite simply the most brilliantly coloured of any British birds and there is no mistaking its electric blue back and vivid orange underparts. Equally distinctive is the fast, straight flight as it speeds low over the water whilst emitting a shrill double-note which often betrays the bird's presence before it is actually seen. Kingfishers always breed near water. The favoured habitat tends to be large slow-flowing rivers or their tributaries and premium nesting sites have banks which they can nest in and shallow tree-fringed areas for fishing. It is also a very aptly named bird as it perches motionless from a suitable twig or branch before plunging into the water after minnows or sticklebacks. Once caught, the fish are immobilised by a quick blow on a branch and swallowed head-first so that any spines or gills don't lodge in the bird's throat. In Britain, there are between 3,300 and 5,000 pairs but numbers tend to fluctuate depending on the severity of the preceding winter. Pollution also represents a serious threat to the kingfisher, as does the practice of culverting streams and rivers. Despite a widespread distribution, it is rarely seen by bird-lovers unless they spend time walking along river-banks.