BIRDS: Kingfisher: (Cruidín), Alcedo atthis
Found along the banks of rivers, canals and lakes throughout Ireland, the Kingfisher is one of our most colourful and celebrated birds. Smaller than most people expect, at just 16cm in length it is only marginally bigger than a sparrow, but with a far longer bill and more robust build.
The Kingfisher is unmistakable, with its bright orange underparts and cheek patches, white throat and ear patches and metallic greenish-blue crown and wings. The back and tail are a lighter, even more dazzling "electric" blue, which immediately catches the eye when a Kingfisher flies past. The only visible difference between the sexes is that the male has an all-black bill, while the female's is black above and reddish below.
Despite its bright plumage, perched Kingfishers can be hard to spot. When they are not moving the colours actually camouflage it surprisingly well against the backdrop of riparian vegetation. The most obvious sign of its presence is its shrill "chree" or "chee-key" call.
Kingfishers nest in tunnels which they dig into riverbanks, and remain in Ireland year-round. Their main food is small fish of course, which they catch by perching over the water and plunge-diving in to grab them as they swim past. The Kingfisher dashes its fish against a branch to kill it, then swallows it whole, head first to prevent the scales getting caught in its throat.
?More BirdWatch Ireland has launched a new scheme to survey Kingfishers and other birds of our inland waterways. For more information, or to join BirdWatch Ireland and support their conservation work, please call 01 2819878, email email@example.com or visit www.birdwatchireland.ie