So kingfishers, at the moment, hold the title of my favourite species of bird. Back home I was lucky enough to get a photo of a European kingfisher back in February on one of my lunchtime walks at work. I would see them regularly enough, and if anyone in the UK, more specifically near Suffolk – Lackford Lakes is the place to go to see kingfishers.
The kingfisher you’ll find in New Zealand is larger than its European cousin, and is a hell of a lot easier to spot. There seems to be a lot more of them as well – on my day trip to Cape Regina I saw at least 60 kingfishers on the bus journey. Never in a million years would you see 60 kingfishers in a day back home. I was loving life that day – as I’m sure you can imagine.
The New Zealand kingfisher is primarily cream and green-blue – with iridescent feathers on its wings and back. It has a broad black strip from its bill to its ears, and has a large bill. Its legs and feet are grey or pink-brown. A way to distinguish between the male and female is that the female is greener and duller. Its green-blue cap and black bill distinguishes the sacred kingfisher from other kingfisher species.
You can find the sacred kingfisher on both the North and South Islands of New Zealand and are recorded in coastal and inland freshwater habitats. They favour farmland and riverbanks and are less common further inland and in mountainous regions.
The sacred kingfisher eats a varied diet; terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, crabs, tadpoles, crayfish, cicadas, beetles, lizards and even mice. Of course, the diet is also dependent upon location. With the recent rain, when I last went out on a hunt for kingfishers I saw one after worms. Mostly, sacred kingfishers are seen singly or in pairs. They will use a range of perches, from tree branches to washing lines, fences – and on one occasion I saw one sitting on a volleyball net.
Kingfishers nest in trees, cliffs and banks – where a nest chamber is excavated through a kingfisher chiselling out the nest with their bill. Incubation of the eggs is usually the role of the female however it is a shared duty. Mating occurs in early September and adults become very aggressive in defensive of their nest. Kingfishers lay between 3 and 7 eggs in a clutch which are incubated for roughly 20 days. The eggs of the kingfisher are a smooth glossy white and are about 2.4 cm in length. Chicks are fed by both parents and begin to fledge at 26 days. Chicks are fed for between 7 to 10 days after leaving the nest before they then start to catch food for themselves.