Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We are Family

You can see from this photo and a similar one yesterday that kingfishers have weak, undersized appearing legs. There are a few bird species like this, including hummingbirds and the common loon. Despite this physical feature, kingfishers most often nest in small caverns which they burrow out of cliffs using their bill and their feet. The tunnels can be anywhere from three to ten feet in length ending in a slightly larger chamber, sloping upward so rainwater cannot accumulate.

I don't know of any place on the river where the bank is cliff-like, so I have no idea where they would go to raise their young. Pairs a monogamous for the length of a breeding season. Once in a while I will see them flying in groups like they are doing in this photo.

Their most frequent rattling call is easily mistaken for a Downy or Red-bellied Woodpecker and I have to consciously think about what I just heard to tell which is which since I hear both on the river. A "flock" like this is almost certainly made up of the parents and new offspring. They can have a clutch of as many as eight eggs.

When breeding season is over, they become loners. These two females flying together are almost certainly a female and her offspring. A characteristic of their flight is their affinity for staying just above the water. When you see one in flight, it will almost always be flying just above the water.

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