Kotare, the Kingfisher
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|Kotare, the Kingfisher |
The species Halcyon sanctus is found in New Guinea, Australia, Tasmania, New Caledonia, the Solomon, Kermadec, Lord Howe, Norfolk and Loyalty Islands. The New Zealand sub-species, H.s. vagans, is distinguished from the Australian sub-species by its larger size and broader bill and generally by the distinctiveness of its green and blue colours.
Halcyon is the Greek word for kingfisher and refers to a bird fabled to breed about the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea and to charm the wind and waves so that the sea was then specially calm, hence halcyon days.
The specific name of sanctus, the Sacred Kingfisher, was, according to the ornithologist W.H. Oliver, bestowed on the species as far back as 1782 because of the veneration paid to the bird in some Pacific Islands.
A Concentration of Kingfishers
Kotare is distinguished by its habit of perching in a prominent place and waiting for its prey to appear. The collective noun of "a concentration of kingfishers", coined by Stella Rowe in a Miranda newsletter, would seem to be entirely appropriate. The bird is all head and shoulders with a very broad bill, made, it would seem, for driving into clay banks or a tree to make nesting holes.
It is a fearless bird and readily attacks mammals and birds of its own size and larger. "Starlings are driven away, red billed gulls put to flight, a Tui killed, cats and dogs blinded in one eye and even weasels attacked. Every kind of small animal is attacked, killed and eaten by the kingfisher. The mouse is a first favorite and the bird's sharp eyes and quick actions are usually effective when one comes into view. Before being swallowed the victim is pulped and its bones broken by battering on the kingfisher's perch. Small birds such as Tauhou, the white eye, are eaten and lizards where they are plentiful. Larger insects also form part of the diet." Fish form only a small part of their diet but whitebait are taken in the lower reaches of the rivers in spring and goldfish in ponds are not safe. They have been photographed diving into the water after prey with their wings clapped to their sides like a gannet.
They nest in a burrow either in a clay bank or a tree, very often a decaying willow. As described by many writers and observers, to start a tunnel they sit an a branch slightly above and several metres away from the site and fly straight at it, neck outstretched and uttering a peculiar whirring call, and strike it forcedly with the bill tip. They continue until the hole is big enough to perch in and scoop out. The nesting burrow can be as much as 24cm long and will be used year after year.
The female does most of the brooding while the male supplies the food. They are bad housekeepers and the nests are often quite filthy.
miqra, LordPotty, RAP, Callie has marked this note useful
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Very nice shot, great pose.
- [2004-12-04 7:16]
What cute looking little birds, nice photo
Good post Pam. I see lots of kingfishers around here,but I've never seen two together.
I've also learnt a lot from your notes. I had no idea they attacked larger mammals. These ones look a little different, not as blue as most I see. I've found a few trees pocked full of kingfisher holes down on the riverbank behind our house.
- [2004-12-04 17:35]
Una bonita aunque pequeña composicion con una diagonal bien definida y las 2 primorosas aves, con bellos detalles y agudeza con un correcto DOF.
A pretty although small composition with an diagonal good defined and the 2 dainty birds, with beautiful details and sharpness with a correct DOF.
I like me.
- [2004-12-04 23:52]
Very good capture of the two of them and a killer note.
Well done and thanks for posting
- [2004-12-12 16:23]
What a delightful note! I learned new things too, a joy in it self. These look a lot like out half-collared KF, also a blue and cream species. Some of our species make a tunnel 1, 5 m deep!
Nice pose and post, and thanks for sharing.