Monday, 13 January 2014


Some years ago I was involved with the BTO and bird ringing. I was part of a small group of bird watchers. Soon after fledging the Kingfishers on our local river were easier to catch at that time, just before they eventually start to disperse. We used to hang a mist net along one of their flight paths. It always had to be a very quick process when dealing with Kingfishers. We would measure, weigh, ring and release almost as quick as you can say it.

As well as the metal leg ring we would add a colour ring also. (not always easily seen on a kingfishers short legs) This helped with later identification and we found that some birds would move quite a few miles either side of the area where the fledged along the river as they tried to establish their own territories.  

The Kingfisher when in the hand have this curious habit of slowly swinging their head from one side to the other - almost like an automaton. That was the sign of stress and a warning to instantly release them even if we had not finished.

Kingfishers prefer slow moving water with over hanging trees. Using the lower branches on the trees as a perch and fishing the shallow margins where they can pick off small fish. In flight they are quite vocal and quick. Prefering to hug the water surface when flying in short burst from tree to tree. Breeding habitat is a tunnel usually in a high clay bank on the outside of a bend. Mink are now proving to be a significant predator problem for Kingfishers by digging out their nests to eat the young.

Some people hold strong views either pro or con about bird ringing. But in many cases its the only way to obtain insight of how well a given population is doing. One bird ringing group I knew of were monitoring and providing habitat such as nest boxes and meal worms when food was short for an isolated group of hedge sparrows. 

During the process of ringing chicks in the nest. It was noticed when being rung some chicks had small leg deformities. The breeding group was quite small. So it was decided to import some eggs from another isolated colony located about 30 miles away. Adding the odd egg into another birds nests. This helped to spread a new strain of genetics between the two isolated groups. The colony has since gone from strength to strength and now has about 40 breeding pairs most years. The deformities have not been noted for a few years now.

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