Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Common Kingfisher

The Common Kingfisher is found throughout Sri Lanka, although it is scarce at the highest elevations. It is not as common as the White-throated kingfisher but can be found at most village tanks (man made lake). More images and info inside. Click the images on this post to view larger versions.

It is easy to identify this species of Kingfisher due to its small size and overall blue plumage but may be confused with the extremely rare Blue-eared Kingfisher. The Chestnut coloured ear coverts differentiate the common Kingfisher from the Blue-eared Kingfisher. However, it must be noted that the Common Kingfisher can hide its ear coverts when it adopts a hunched pose. The female of the species is identical to the male except the female has an orange-red lower mandible.

The Common Kingfisher is widely distributed throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a common breeding species across most of its Eurasian range but is a winter visitor to North Africa. It inhabits clear, slow flowing streams and rivers with well vegitated banks. It frequents scrubs and bushes with overhanging branches from which it hunts.

The Common Kingfisher nests in a burrow, excavated by both birds, in a vertical riverbank.  The straight sometimes inclining burrow is usually 60-90 cm long and ends in an enlarged chamber. The nest cavity is unlined but soon collects a litter of fish remains. The Common Kingfisher typically lays five to seven eggs which are incubated by both sexes. Usually one or two eggs from a clutch fail to hatch as the parent can't cover them.

It hunts from a perch around one or two meters above the water with its bill pointing down as it looks for prey. Once prey is detected, it dives to seize the fish below the surface. The wings are open under water and the open eye is protected by a third eyelid. The bird then rises, beak first, and flies back to its perch. The Kingfisher then adjusts the fish in its beak so that it is held near the tail and then proceeds to beat it several times on the perch until the fish is dead. The fish is then swallowed head first.
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I visited the Thalangama tank on a regular basis during December and January with the aim of capturing a couple of decent images of this bird. I was fortunate enough to identify a perch which was frequented by a Common Kingfisher within the first couple of visits and managed to get a number of shots using the car as a hide. However, I wasn't too happy with these images as they needed to be cropped. I had to get closer to it. On my next visit, I waited until the bird had its back turned to me and got out of the car and moved closer on foot pausing whenever the bird looked in my direction. I managed to get within fifteen feet of the bird and captured the shots above. They have not been cropped. I was using the 100-400mm lens on the 7D.  

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