Reddish Vale Country Park
Wingspan, 24 - 26cm,
Weight, 34 - 46g,
Diet, fish and aquatic insects,
3600-6000 UK breeding pairs
The Kingfisher is one of Britain's most brightly coloured and interesting birds.
Kingfishers are not much bigger than a house sparrow and are very brightly coloured. They have bright orange underparts with a white bib. The wings are bluish-green and the back, rump and tail are bright blue. The kingfisher's head is blue with orange marks in front and behind the bird's eyes, and a white mark on each side of the head. The legs are short and orange coloured. The bright colours are most obvious when the bird is in flight. Males and females are almost indistinguishable, the female can, however, be distinguished by the orange colouration on the lower part of her bill.
Kingfishers hunt for fish in rivers, lakes and ponds. They perch on a favourite branch near to water and watch out, with their keen eyesight, for a suitable fish. When a fish is spotted, the kingfisher will dive, beak first, into the water. The kingfisher has to rely on memory to predict where the fish will be after it has entered and will sometimes return to the surface with a stone in its beak if its prediction was wrong. After it has caught a fish it will fly back to its perch with the fish in its beak. The kingfisher does not eat it immediately and instead will beat the fish against its perch to kill it and then consume it head-first. Kingfishers will regurgitate pellets containing accumulated indegestible material such as fish bones.
Kingfishers make burrows in sandy river banks. The burrow consists of a horizontal tunnel with a nesting chamber at the end and is usually about a metre long. The female lays about 6 or 7 eggs but sometimes will lay up to 10 eggs. The male and female share the job of incubating the eggs for about 20 days.
kingfishers are very sensitive to cold weather and a particulary harsh winter can seriously reduce kingfisher populations.
How and where to spot kingfishers at Reddish Vale
Many people who visit the Vale miss out on one of the most spectacular birds we have in this country, the kingfisher. If you know what to look for and more importantly, what to listen out for, then there is no reason why you shouldn't see or hear kingfishers when you visit the Vale.
When people see a kingfisher for the first time they are always surprised at how small they are, some visitors to the Vale have mistaken herons for kingfishers. Kingfishers are around 15-17cm in length, slightly longer than a sparrow.
The most important way to spot kingfishers, if you can remember the call, you will see them. Kingfishers have a loud, crisp call which is unmistakable. The alarm call is a series of single note calls, pee, pee, pee, peeeee, they usually make the alarm call when flying after being disturbed. If you click on the video button and watch the video all the way through you can hear the alarm call when the kingfisher chases a sparrowhawk off.
Kingfishers usually fly straight and fast, a few feet above the water.
Kingfishers are active all day, but the best time of day to spot them around the ponds is first thing in the morning, they tend to go onto the river if there are a lot of people about. Have a look at the river, if the river is high they are more likely to be fishing on the ponds because they don't fish in deep fast flowing water.
Kingfishers have a habit of using the same perch for fishing, often a twig or branch a couple of feet above the water and can use the same perch for days. Kingfishers are very timid and will fly off if you get too close, but if you keep still there is a good chance they will return to the same perch.
And don't forget to take a pair of binoculars with you.