Posted on Nov 27, 2023 at 3:26 pm by Emily A
The European Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, is a remarkable bird both for its characteristic silhouette and its vibrant colors. A piscivore, discreet, and solitary, the Kingfisher invariably lives near fish-rich aquatic areas that meet most of its dietary needs.
What is the habitat of the Kingfisher?
The Kingfisher is a discreet and hard-to-spot bird, especially since it is a solitary bird outside the breeding and nesting period.
Alcedo atthis mainly lives in Europe, but it is also found in North Africa and Southeast Asia. Very sensitive to cold, the species’ range is limited in altitude, and this bird is rarely found above 800 m.
The European Kingfisher is familiar with both natural and artificial aquatic areas that offer stagnant or flowing waters, but above all, waters that are rich in small fish.
Furthermore, water clarity is an essential criterion for this bird, which needs good visibility in order to easily spot fish and fish effectively. Its presence is a sign of a healthy and unpolluted environment.
Note: Although the Kingfisher is not considered an endangered species in France and Europe, habitat degradation and water pollution are serious threats to its survival.
The wetland banks must also offer sufficiently dense vegetation so that the fisherman can stay there and wait for its prey. Finally, the species’ cavity nesting requires the presence of easily accessible “cutting fronts”.
However, the Kingfisher is capable of nesting away from its fishing grounds (up to a few hundred meters from the water) if it finds a suitable nesting site.
Therefore, it is possible to spot the European Kingfisher on the banks of rivers, lakes, ponds, water-filled gravel pits, marshes, and canals.
Is the Kingfisher a migratory bird?
If the climate allows it, the species is willingly sedentary, and the populations remain in the same place all year round.
On the other hand, those subjected to cold winters are forced to migrate, sometimes up to several thousand kilometers from their nesting area.
During the cold season, Kingfishers can be seen in coastal areas where the water does not freeze. They are often found on rocky coastlines, estuaries, lagoons, ports, and mangroves.
What fish does the Kingfisher eat?
As a piscivore, the Kingfisher’s diet consists of at least 60% fish. It is estimated that its needs amount to around 20 g of fish per day.
Adults generally hunt fish that are 4 to 7 cm long. Less commonly, their prey can reach a length of 11 cm.
Young Kingfishers, on the other hand, are fed with smaller prey that they can swallow whole and headfirst.
Among the small fish most consumed by the Kingfisher are mainly bleaks, carps, crucian carps, chubs, roaches, gudgeons, perches, trouts, and minnows.
The fish species most widely caught by the Kingfisher faithfully reflect the fish population in the bird’s fishing territory.
Note: In addition to fish, the Kingfisher also feeds in small quantities on young amphibians, lizards, larvae, aquatic insects, shrimps, and crayfish.