Halcyone (Kingfisher)

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) by Nikhil Devasar

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) by Nikhil Devasar

Halcyone ~ from The Curious Book of Birds


Cur Book of Birds letter-tHE story of the first Kingfisher is a sad one, and you need not read it unless for a very little while you wish to feel sorry.

Long, long ago when the world was new, there lived a beautiful princess named Halcyone. She was the daughter of old Æolus, King of the Winds, and lived with him on his happy island, where it was his chief business to keep in order the four boisterous brothers, Boreas, the North Wind, Zephyrus, the West Wind, Auster, the South Wind, and Eurus, the East Wind. Sometimes, indeed, Æolus had a hard time of it; for the Winds would escape from his control and rush out upon the sea for their terrible games, which were sure to bring death and destruction to the sailors and their ships. Knowing them so well, for she had grown up with these rough playmates, Halcyone came to dread more than anything else the cruelties which they practiced at every opportunity.

One day the Prince Ceyx came to the island of King Æolus. He was the son of Hesperus, the Evening Star, and he was the king of the great land of Thessaly. Ceyx and Halcyone grew to love each other dearly, and at last with the consent of good King Æolus, but to the wrath of the four Winds, the beautiful princess went away to be the wife of Ceyx and Queen of Thessaly.

For a long time they lived happily in their peaceful kingdom, but finally came a day when Ceyx must take a long voyage on the sea, to visit a temple in a far country. Halcyone could not bear to have him go, for she feared the dangers of the great deep, knowing well the cruelty of the Winds, whom King Æolus had such difficulty in keeping within bounds. She knew how the mischievous brothers loved to rush down upon venturesome sailors and blow them into danger, and she knew that they especially hated her husband because he had carried her away from the island where she had watched the Winds at their terrible play. She begged Ceyx not to go, but he said that it was necessary. Then she prayed that if he must go he would take her with him, for she could not bear to remain behind dreading what might happen.

But Ceyx was resolved that Halcyone should not go. The good king longed to take her with him; no more than she could he smile at the thought of separation. But he also feared the sea, not on his own account, but for his dear wife. In spite of her entreaties he remained firm. If all went well he promised to return in two months’ time. But Halcyone knew that she should never see him again as now he spoke.

The day of separation came. Standing heart-broken upon the shore, Halcyone watched the vessel sail away into the East, until as a little speck it dropped below the horizon; then sobbing bitterly she returned to the palace.

Now the king and his men had completed but half their journey when a terrible storm arose. The wicked Winds had escaped from the control of good old Æolus and were rushing down upon the ocean to punish Ceyx for carrying away the beautiful Halcyone. Fiercely they blew, the lightning flashed, and the sea ran high; and in the midst of the horrible tumult the good ship went to the bottom with all on board. Thus the fears of Halcyone were proved true, and far from his dear wife poor Ceyx perished in the cruel waves.

That very night when the shipwreck occurred, the sad and fearful Halcyone, sleeping lonely at home, knew in a dream the very calamity which had happened. She seemed to see the storm and the shipwreck, and the form of Ceyx appeared, saying a sad farewell to her. As soon as it was light she rose and hastened to the seashore, trembling with a horrible dread. Standing on the very spot whence she had last seen the fated ship, she looked wistfully over the waste of stormy waters. At last she spied a dark something tossing on the waves. The object floated nearer and nearer, until a huge breaker cast before her on the sand the body of her drowned husband.

“O dearest Ceyx!” she cried. “Is it thus that you return to me?” Stretching out her arms toward him, she leaped upon the sea wall as if she would throw herself into the ocean, which advanced and retreated, seething around his body. But a different fate was to be hers. As she leaped forward two strong wings sprouted from her shoulders, and before she knew it she found herself skimming lightly as a bird over the water. From her throat came sounds of sobbing, which changed as she flew into the shrill piping of a bird. Soft feathers now covered her body, and a crest rose above the forehead which had once been so fair. Halcyone was become a Kingfisher, the first Kingfisher who ever flew lamenting above the waters of the world.

The sad bird fluttered through the spray straight to the body that was tossed upon the surf. As her wings touched the wet shoulders, and as her horny beak sought the dumb lips in an attempt to kiss what was once so dear, the body of Ceyx began to receive new life. The limbs stirred, a faint color returned to the cheeks. At the same moment a change like that which had transformed Halcyone began to pass over her husband. He too was becoming a Kingfisher. He too felt the thrill of wings upon his shoulders, wings which were to bear him up and away out of the sea which had been his death. He too was clad in soft plumage with a kingly crest upon his kingly head. With a faint cry, half of sorrow for what had happened, half of joy for the future in which these two loving ones were at least to be together, Ceyx rose from the surf-swept sand where his lifeless limbs had lain and went skimming over the waves beside Halcyone his wife.

Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) by Khong Tuck Khoon

Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca) by Khong Tuck Khoon

So those unhappy mortals became the first kingfishers, happy at last in being reunited. So we see them still, flying up and down over the waters of the world, royal forms with royal crests upon their heads.

They built their nest of the bones of fish, a stout and well-joined basket which floated on the waves as safely as any little boat. And while their children, the baby Halcyons, lay in this rocking cradle, for seven days in the heart of winter, no storms ever troubled the ocean and mariners could set out upon their voyages without fear.

For while his little grandchildren rocked in their basket, the good King Æolus, pitying the sorrows of his daughter Halcyone, was always especially careful to chain up in prison those wicked brothers the Winds, so that they could do no mischief of any kind.

And that is why a halcyon time has come to mean a season of peace and safety.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Daves BirdingPix

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Daves BirdingPix

Lee’s Addition:

Another enjoyable Bird Tale from the Curious Book of Birds. Kingfishers belong to the Alcedinidae – Kingfishers Family. There are two genus in the Kingfishers called Ceyx and Halcyon. Humm! What do you think? Must be those that name birds read the story?

We know the Lord created Kingfishers, but it is fun to read stories about them, even if they are make-believe.

And when he (Jesus) had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. (Luke 5:4-6 ESV)

Kingfishers don’t have to use nets like these fishermen, which were the disciples. But they obeyed and they received a great many fish.

(Photos added by me.)


White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) by Nikhil Devasar



  Alcedinidae – Kingfishers Family



Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) ©©Flickr



  Bird Tales




Curious Book of Birds - Cover



  The Curious Book of Birds



Spanish Sparrow (Passer Hispaniolensis) female ©WikiC




  Wordless Birds




Birds Vol 1 #2 – The Kingfisher – The Lone Fisherman

Kingfisher – Birds Illustrated by Photography 1897

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. February, 1897 No. 2



Dear Children:

I shall soon arrive from the south. I hear that all the birds are going to tell stories to the boys and girls.

I have never talked much with children myself for I never really cared for people. They used to say that the dead body of a Kingfisher kept them safe in war and they said also that it protected them in lightning.

Even now in some places in France they call us the moth birds, for they believe that our bodies will keep away moths from woolen cloth.

I wish that people would not believe such things about us. Perhaps you cannot understand me when I talk. You may think that you hear only a child’s rattle.

Listen again! It is I, the Kingfisher. That sound is my way of talking. I live in the deep woods. I own a beautiful stream and a clear, cool lake. Oh, the little fish in that lake are good enough for a king to eat! I know, for I am a king.

You may see me or some of my mates near the lake any pleasant day. People used to say that we always brought pleasant weather. That is a joke. It is the pleasant weather that always brings us from our homes. When it storms or rains we cannot see the fish in the lake. Then we may as well stay in our nests.

My home once belonged to a water rat. He dug the fine hall in the gravel bank in my stream. It is nearly six feet long. The end of it is just the kind of a place for a nest. It is warm, dry and dark. In June my wife and I will settle down in it. By that time we shall have the nest well lined with fish bones. We shall put in some dried grass too. The fish bones make a fine lining for a nest. You know we swallow the fish whole, but we save all the bones for our nest.

I shall help my wife hatch her five white eggs and shall try in every way to make my family safe.

Please tell the people not to believe those strange things about me and you will greatly oblige,
A neighbor,
The Kingfisher.


The Lone Fisherman.

imgtHE American species belongs to the true group of Kingfishers. It occupies the whole continent of North America and although migrating in the north, he is a constant resident of our southern states. The belted Kingfisher is the only variety found along the inland streams of the United States. Audubon declares that “belted” should apply only to the female, however.

Like most birds of brilliant plumage, the Kingfisher prefers a quiet and secluded haunt. It loves the little trout streams, with wooded and precipitous banks, the still ponds and small lakes, ornamental waters in parks, where it is not molested, and the sides of sluggish rivers, drains and mill-ponds.

Here in such a haunt the bird often flits past like an indistinct gleam of bluish light. Fortune may sometimes favor the observer and the bird may alight on some twig over the stream, its weight causing it to sway gently to and fro. It eagerly scans the shoal of young trout sporting in the pool below, when suddenly it drops down into the water, and, almost before the observer is aware of the fact, is back again to its perch with a struggling fish in its beak. A few blows on the branch and its prey is ready for the dexterous movement of the bill, which places it in a position for swallowing. Sometimes the captured fish is adroitly jerked into the air and caught as it falls.

Fish is the principal food of the Kingfisher; but it also eats various kinds of insects, shrimps, and even small crabs. It rears its young in a hole, which is made in the banks of the stream it frequents. It is a slatternly bird, fouls its own nest and its peerless eggs. The nesting hole is bored rather slowly, and takes from one to two weeks to complete. Six or eight white glossy eggs are laid, sometimes on the bare soil, but often on the fish bones which, being indigestible, are thrown up by the bird in pellets.

The Kingfisher has a crest of feathers on the top of his head, which he raises and lowers, especially when trying to drive intruders away from his nest.

The plumage is compact and oily, making it almost impervious to water. The flesh is fishy and disagreeable to the taste, but the eggs are said to be good eating. The wings are long and pointed and the bill longer than the head. The voice is harsh and monotonous.

It is said that few birds are connected with more fables than the Kingfisher. The superstition that a dead Kingfisher when suspended by the throat, would turn its beak to that particular point of the compass from which the wind blew, is now dead. It was also supposed to possess many astonishing virtues, as that its dried body would avert thunderbolts, and if kept in a wardrobe would preserve from moths the woolen stuffs and the like contained in it.

Under the name of “halcyon,” it was fabled by the ancients to build its nest on the surface of the sea, and to have the power of calming the troubled waves during its period of incubation; hence the phrase “halcyon days.”

A pair of Kingfishers have had their residence in a bank at the south end of Washington Park, Chicago, for at least three seasons past. We have watched the Kingfisher from secluded spots on Long Island ponds and tidal streams, where his peculiar laughing note is the same as that which greets the ear of the fisherman on far inland streams on still summer days.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Daves BirdingPix

Lee’s Addition:

Another of my favorite birds. I think most of them are, but the Belted Kingfisher is a real challenge to photograph. They must sense that your camera is on. Dan says that many photographers call it the “Devil Bird” because it is so hard to photo. See http://jimt.zenfolio.com/p703966915 by James Thiel and another photographer at http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnklos/3049270990/.

I think of them as having a short squatty neck and a long beak. Actually the Laughing Kookaburra is in the Kingfisher family, the Kingfishers – Alcedinidae Family. The article mentioned that the Belted Kingfisher is the only one in the U. S., but there are actually two more; the Ringed and the Green Kingfishers that are found in south Texas. We have seen all three of them.

The Kingfisher – Alcedinidae family has a total of 95 members. Many of them are very colorful and again show the Lord’s Creative Hand at work. He has provided them with just the right kind of beak to snatch their meals with and even given them the ability to see their prey in the water. The distortion water gives is compensated for them.

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. (Matthew 4:18-19 KJV)

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Lee Circle B

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Lee Circle B

In January, I was able for the first time to get some photos of the Belted Kingfisher. Two of them were showing off and forgot someone was watching. They can hover over the water, keeping their head steady and watch for their prey. It is amazing to watch them do that. (Birdwatching Adventure – Circle B Bar Reserve – 1/16/12)

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 February 1897 No 2 - Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 February 1897 No 2 – Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Red Wing Black Bird – The Bird Of Society

Previous Article – The American Robin – The Bird Of The Morning

Wordless Birds



Birdwatching Adventure – Circle B Bar Reserve – 1/16/12

Sora (Porzana carolina) by Lee at Circle B

Sora (Porzana carolina) by Lee at Circle B

Dan and I went over to Circle B Bar Reserve on Monday, January 16th. We had a great time birding and we got to view a “Life Bird.” (This one is for real.) See the photo above. “Life Birds” are what you call a bird species the first time you see one. We now have 3 life birds this year. The Sora seen here is the second one for the year. The first one was a Hooded Grebe on Saturday. and I spotted a third one today, a Redhead, at Lake Morton.

The Sora is a bird in the Rails, Crakes & Coots – Rallidae Family. They are 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm) and weigh about 1.4-4 oz (49-112 g). So they are not a large bird. I found it among the Common Gallinule and that is what help me realize that it was different and smaller. Been looking for a Sora for months out at Circle B. Knew they were there, just never found one.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Lee Circle B

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Lee Circle B

Another highlight of our trip was finding 2 Belted Kingfishers, close-up and personal. They are hard to photograph, but this time they were showing off right in front of us. They were hovering and then diving for their food. Was great to watch them. They are in the Kingfisher – Alcedinidae Family. They are medium sized, actually we both were surprised they are as large as they are. They always appear to have a very short squatty neck. They are 11–13.8 in (28–35 cm), weigh 4.9–6 oz (140–170 g) and have a 19-22 in (48-58cm) wingspan.

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Lee Circle B

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Lee Circle B

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified!” (Psalms 70:4 NKJV)

We also spotted several Alligators.

Here is the list that I turned in to eBird.org:

37 species total

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 20
Mottled Duck 2
Ruddy Duck 2
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Anhinga 1
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 3
Little Blue Heron 2
Cattle Egret 15
Turkey Vulture 50
Osprey 1
Northern Harrier 1
Common Gallinule 10
American Coot 20
Sandhill Crane 6
Killdeer 1
Mourning Dove 5
Tree Swallow 30
Northern Mockingbird 1
Palm Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Boat-tailed Grackle 5

Wordless Birds


Pied Kingfisher – Concentrated Diver

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) by Peter Ericsson

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) by Peter Ericsson

While having the privilege of obtaining some photos for future blogs from Peter Ericsson’s Galleries, I obtained a few photos of the Pied Kingfisher. I thought this Kingfisher was very pretty. Then I found this amazing video from BBC Worldwide and decided to share these. Another reason, my attempts to photograph our Belted Kingfishers is never very successful. Thankfully Peter and the videographers had better success.

When the Lord created the birds, He gave them so many amazing abilities. The way the Kingfisher keeps his head so steady is absolutely fantastic.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (Romans 11:33-34 KJV)

The Pied Kingfisher is about 7 – 10 in or 17-25 cm long with a white with a black mask, a white supercilium and black breast bands. The female has only one breast band. The crest is neat and the upperparts are barred in black. There are several subspecies. It is common throughout sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia from Turkey to India to China. It is resident, and most birds do not migrate, other than short-distance seasonal movements. In India it is distributed mainly on the plains. It is thought to be the world’s 3rd most common kingfisher and a noisy bird.

Fish is its main diet, though it will eat other aquatic invertebrates. It usually hunts by hovering over the water to detect prey and diving vertically down bill-first to capture fish. When not foraging, they have a straight rapid flight and have been observed flying at nearly 32 mph.

Pied Kingfisher from BBC Worldwide – Shows this diving ability

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2 NKJV)

During breeding season (February to April), they make its nest in a hole excavated in a vertical mud bank about five feet above water. The nest tunnel is 4 to 5 feet long and ends in a chamber. Several birds may nest in the same vicinity. The usual clutch is 3-6 white eggs. The pied kingfisher sometimes reproduces co-operatively, with young non-breeding birds from an earlier brood assisting parents (helpers) or even unrelated older birds.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. (Matthew 8:20 NKJV)

Kingfishers “are monogamous, teritorial, and sometimes colonial.”  Courtship displays are noisy and the displays are in duet as they raise their wings or spiral in flight. Recent suggestion is that the Pied Kingfisher and the American green kingfishers are derived from an Old World species (kind), with the Pied Kingfisher or its ancestor losing the metallic colouration afterwards. The Alcedinidae Family is where the Kingfishers and Kookaburras are found. At present there are 95 of them. They belong to the Coraciiformes Order. The Order includes Rollers, Ground Rollers, Kingfishers, Todies, Motmots, and Bee-eaters.

Pied Piper up close by IndiaVideo.org

Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number. (Job 9:10 KJV)

Peter Ericsson is in Thailand and is a Christian photographer. His two sites are Peter Ericsson’s Photo Galleries and his blog Thaibirder . Please visit his sites for some fantastic photagraphy.

Information taken from Wikipedia,  Complete Birds of the World, and Bird


Birds of the Bible – What Birds Can Tell – 1

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Daves BirdingPix

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) by Daves BirdingPix

But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know That the hand of the LORD has done this, (Job 12:7-9 NKJV)

One of my favorite birds that I enjoy watching is the Kingfisher. The ones we have here in Florida (Belted Kingfishers) are rather plain compared to others around the world, but they all have a characteristic look of a very long bill on a large head and a short neck. It is the bill that those in Japan have studied that is amazing.

Japan has electric trains that speed over 200 miles per hour or 322 kilometers per hour. They are very safe and have a great record, but a noise problem had been plaguing them until they observed the Kingfisher’s beak. When the speeding trains went through the tunnels, it caused a “tunnel boom” which goes against their strict sound pollution laws.

Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting) by Nik

Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting) by Nik

“Eiji Nakatsu, the train’s chief engineer and an avid bird-watcher, asked himself, “Is there something in Nature that travels quickly and smoothly between two very different mediums?” Modeling the front-end of the train after the beak of kingfishers, which dive from the air into bodies of water with very little splash to catch fish, resulted not only in a quieter train, but 15% less electricity use even while the train travels 10% faster.” (Learning Efficiency from Kingfishers)

Bullet Train

Bullet Train

The “tunnel boom” is caused  “when a train passes through such a tunnel at high speed, it compresses the air in front of the engine. Upon leaving the tunnel, this air rushes outward, creating a loud thunderclap, or sonic boom. Nearby windows rattle, and people are awakened by the noise.” (Don DeYoung, Answers) When the engineers did wind tunnel experiments they found that “the kingfisher’s bill is ideally shaped for a smooth, streamlined transition from air into water. This drastic change in pressure is similar to the change a bullet train experiences when emerging from a tunnel into the open air.”

By observing one of God’s created birds, the kingfisher, they were able to solve a serious problem. The Lord in His great wisdom has provided us many critters and other things to observe so that they may “tell us” things that will benefit us.

Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD. (Psalms 107:43 KJV)

See Also:

Speeding Bullet – Answers V4, #3
Kingfisher – Train by Discovery of Design
Learning Efficiency from Kingfishers by Biomimicry Institute