The kingfisher at Prior Park
With its sapphire body and fiery orange chest, Kingfishers are undoubtedly one of the most colourful birds in Britain. These small birds are very vulnerable to harsh winters. Prior Park has the perfect conditions for Kingfishers to thrive during the colder season. The lakes are abundant in minnows and sticklebacks which will sustain a hungry kingfisher and the muddy banks provide space to build nests.
Kingfishers often make their home in the garden, and the first sightings this year were back in February.. She was sat on the stone apron of the lower lake, looking out over the cool clear water. In a flurry of wingbeats and colour, she dived into the lake and emerged with a small minnow in her bill. She beat the fish against a rock until it was unconscious and then gulped it down head first.
How do we know she was a she? Female Kingfishers have a lower orange mandible (beak) whereas male mandibles are all black. As the days lengthened and spring finally arrived in April, the Kingfisher vanished. Although Prior Park is an ideal over-winter nesting spot, it does not have the right breeding conditions and so she flew off in search of a mate.
As the autumn chill creeps back into the air, a few colourful Kingfishers have been spotted both over the lower lake, and at the Serpentine Lake at the top of the garden. At least one of these new visitors is a male (all black bill).
Kingfishers are small and shy birds, easily startled by human presence. However, with a bit of patience, and with slow quiet movements, you may be lucky enough to spot one.