Ian’s Bird of the Week – Collared Kingfisher ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 12-30-14
The first photo shows a present from Santa that I want to share, taken late in the afternoon on Christmas Day: a Collared Kingfisher This species is the only one of the ten Kingfishers and Kookaburras normally found in Australia that hasn’t featured as bird of the week. It’s a close relative of the Sacred Kingfisher, but larger with a much heavier bill. In Australia it is almost exclusively a dweller of mangroves and feeds mainly on crustaceans such as crabs with a carapace width up to 2cm: hence the shell-crunching beak, it’s best field mark.
Because of its preference for mangroves and because it’s not very common, I’ve found it a difficult species to photograph in Australia. Often the only access to mangroves is on boardwalks, so you can’t get close to anything that’s not close to the boardwalk and, even if you can, you usually can’t get an uninterrupted view in the dense vegetation. In fact, the only tolerable Australian photo that I had was one I took in Darwin in 2004 where there is a walking track into mangroves from Tiger Brennan Drive.
When I pass through Cardwell travelling north towards Innisfail and Cairns, I always stop there as it’s a lovely place where the highway runs along the beach front with views of Hinchinbrook Island and a convenient 90 minutes from home. There’s a rest area at the southern end of town close to a patch of mangroves that regularly produces interesting birds. It was badly damaged by cyclone Yasi four years ago, but is now recovering and the path through the mangroves from the rest area to Port Hinchinbrook has been restored.
In early November, I saw a Collared Kingfisher perched in the open on a dead mangrove near the rest area; it was low tide and the bird was presumably looking for dinner on the mudflat. I didn’t get a photo of it – camera malfunction – but looked again on Christmas Eve on the way north and heard and then found one on a different perch in the middle of the mangroves. I got only the quick, back-lit, get-it-before-it-flies-away shot, second photo, before it did exactly that and I didn’t see it again.
I returned home on Christmas Day and had another look, as the tide was going out and I hope that this would attract the bird into a more open position for a late feed. Just before I was about to give up, I heard the bird calling and found it perched near the beach. I got some distant shots, but when I approached it it flew over my head and returned to exactly the same back-lit spot where it had been on Christmas Eve. If you compare photos two and three, you can see from the guano stains on the branch that it is only a couple of centimetres apart on the two occasions. Clearly a bird of habits. This time, it tolerated my approach, and allowed me to leave the path, squelch through the mangroves and get around behind it where I took the first photo. Austral
I’ve qualified some comments with ‘in Australia’. This species also ranges quite widely through Asia, and in some places it is found in many other habitats including suburban gardens and forested areas along rivers. I had no trouble photographing three in the space of week in Singapore and Malaysia, fourth photo, in 2001. These Asian birds belong to different races from the Australian ones and their taxonomy is very confused, with about 50 subspecies being currently recognized. The Malaysian and Australian races have white underparts but some others, particular those in the Pacific Islands east of New Guinea are quite buff, and some taxonomists think they should be transferred to the Sacred Kingfisher. The calls vary by location too. In Australia the usual contact call is a distinctive two note ‘kek KEK’, with the emphasis on the second one.
I hope Santa brought you what you wanted too.
Happy New Year!
“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20 KJV)
It is always enjoyable to happen upon a bird that is not always easy to find. Of course, when you bring out a camera, you never know if they will stay long enough to get a photo or not. Personally, for me, they seem to scatter. I am glad Ian was able to capture this beautiful Kingfisher’s photo.
You can see Ian’s Kingfisher photos here:
and also enjoy many of his adventures here:
Kingfishers – Alcedinidae – Whole Family