The kingfisher at Prior Park

Kingfisher with her catch

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 are frequent visitors to the garden, and the first sightings of the year have been as early as February. They often sit on the stone apron of the lower lake, looking out over the cool clear water. In a flurry of wingbeats and colour, they dive into the lake and emerged with a small minnow. They beat the fish against a rock until it's unconscious and then gulped it down head first.

Female Kingfishers have a lower orange mandible (beak) whereas male mandibles are all black - so if you have a good view it's not too tricky to tell if you've seen a male or female. As the days lengthen and spring arrives in April, the Kingfisher usually vanishes. Although Prior Park is an ideal over-winter nesting spot, it does not have the right breeding conditions and so they fly off in search of a mate.

As the autumn chill creeps back into the air, the colourful kingfisher can often be spotted both over the lower lake, and at the Serpentine Lake at the top of the garden. 

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.