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The Common Kingfisher

21st Nov 2019

Following on from some of my recent blogs on the wildlife we see around ponds, rivers and watercourses in the UK it got me asking myself, what is my favourite animal to see? On reflection I think it must be the Kingfisher. These majestic birds are a rare sight and most may not have seen one before, however being a keen angler I have been lucky enough to see my fair share of them.

After staying at a cottage recently where there was a beautiful Kingfisher flying about, it made me wonder why I haven’t written a post about these beautiful birds yet. Try as I might I couldn’t manage to snap a picture though, so you’ll have to make do with one of the stream it likes to frequent!

Kingfishers are a small predator of bright blue and orange colour. Quick and agile they hunt around ponds, rivers, reservoirs and lakes flying low to the water to avoid detection. They will usually perch patiently waiting and watching for their next meal. Unfortunately, their numbers are declining for a few reasons - habitat, pollution and how susceptible they are to harsh winters are all factors. Fortunately, being listed as a ‘schedule one’ species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act helps in offering further additional protection.


Needing to eat its own body weight a day in food, small Roach, Perch, Dace, Bream, Bleak, Minnows, Sticklebacks, other larger aquatic insects i.e. Dragonflies and Damson Flies are all prime targets. Once the Kingfisher has caught its prey, it will fly back to its perch and repeatedly hit it against the firm perch until the prey is dead, then it will be swallowed.

Kingfishers are a small bird around 16cm – 18cm in length, with a wingspan stretching only 24cm – 26cm. An adult will weigh roughly around the 34g – 36g mark, so around the same weight as a packet of Walkers crisps (other brands are available).

Breeding and population

In the UK there are roughly around 3,800 – 6,500 pairs, they will breed in their first year and once a mate is found their territory may cross over for a short while. They will usually start to contest this territory around September, and this can be over 1km in size.

Both parents will build a nest burrow for their young, this will usually be on a vertical bank clear of any plants etc to stop predators getting to them. Kingfishers usually have 2-3 broods in a season where they will stick to the same burrow throughout. The breeding season starts around late March.

Now with the weather improving and flowers in bud – it’s the perfect time to get out walking in the countryside, rivers, lakes and ponds - and hopefully, maybe you’ll get lucky and spot a Kingfisher on your travels.