kingfisher defined in 1930 yearkingfisher - Kingfisher;
kingfisher - Back azure-blue; head and wing-coverts bluish green spotted with azure-blue; under and behind the eye a reddish band, passing into white, and beneath this a band of azure-green; wings and tail greenish blue; throat white; under parts rusty orange-red. Length, seven and a half inches.
The kingfisher is by far the most brilliantly coloured bird in the British Islands; and those who see it living and moving with the sunlight on it can form an idea of wonderful lustre of many tropical species, which certainly cannot be done by gazing on the labelled pellets of dead and dimmed feathers, called ' specimens,' in cabinets and museums. Unhappily, this rare splendour of the kingfisher, which gives it value, has served only to draw destruction upon it. As Yarrell long ago said, it is persecuted chiefly because of its beauty, and the desire to possess a stuffed specimen in a glass case. It is found in suitable localities throughout Great Britain where it has not been exterminated to gratify the vile taste that prefers a mummy to a living creature. In Ireland it is rare and local as a breeding species, but as an autumn and winter visitor is found throughout the country. It frequents streams and rivers, and the margins of lakes, and, more rarely, the seaside. It is a solitary bird, and, like the dipper, restricts itself to one part of the stream where it gets its food. Day after day it returns to the same perch, where it sits watching the surface, silent and immovable as a heron. It looks out for its prey both when perched and when flying at a height of a few feet above the surface, and often hovers motionless for a few moments before darting down into the water. With the minnow it captures held crossways in the beak it flies to a perch, and, after beating it against the branch or stone, swallows it, head first, sometimes tossing it in the air and catching it as it falls. It also preys on aquatic insects and small crustaceans. The pairing-time is early, and in February or March the birds make choice of a breeding place, usually near their fishing-ground, but sometimes at a distance of a mile or more from the water. A hole is dug in a bank to a depth of from one to three or four feet; but sometimes the birds find a hole suited to their purpose, or a cavity under the roots of a tree growing on an overhanging bank, which they occupy. The hole made by the birds has an upward slope, and ends in a chamber about six inches in diameter. Here is formed the nest, of the strangest material used by any nest-making bird. The kingfisher, like the owl and cuckoo and many other species, casts up the indigestible portions of its food - the minute bones of minnows in this case - in the form of small pellets. The pellets are thrown up in the nest-chamber, and, when broken up and pressed down by the sitting-bird, are shaped into a cuplike nest. The eggs are six to eight in number, pure white and translucent, and globular in form.
Probably the kingfisher pairs for life, as the same breeding-hole is used year after year, although the two birds are not seen together out of the breeding season.
The cry is a shrill but musical piping note, two or three times repeated, somewhat like the sandpiper's cry.
Two specimens of the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon), an American species, have been obtained in Ireland.
Three other birds remain to be noticed in this place; they are members of three distinct families, and are amongst the most beautiful of the rare occasional visitors seen in our country: -
The roller (Coracius garrula), a jay-like bird, blue and chest nut-brown in colour. It breeds in Southern and Central Europe, and is known only as a rare straggler in the British Islands.
The bee-eater (Merops apiaster) - A good many examples of this elegant and richly coloured bird have been obtained in England. It is an abundant species in Southern Europe, where it breeds in colonies in sandbanks, like our sand-martin.
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