Birds of Fancy

Kingfisher 1

My name is Peter, and I have worked as a Visitor Services Assistant at the Manchester Museum for the last ten years. I would like to tell you a little about one of my favourite objects in the Museum – the kingfisher, which used to be located in the Bird Gallery, now Nature’s Library.

The plumage of most kingfishers is very vivid, with green and blue being the most common colours. They have excellent sight and are capable of binocular vision, particularly in colour. In having this ability, they are able to compensate for the refraction of water and reflection when hunting prey, judging depth incredibly accurately.

Kingfisher 2

My first encounter with the kingfisher was in the late 1960s when I visited the Museum with my school, aged ten-years-old. My overriding memory of the trip was sitting on a cold stone floor, facing a case full of birds; we were asked to choose one to draw, and of course the stunning kingfisher caught my eye. Over forty years later and having bought a new camera, my goal in life is to capture the bird in its natural habitat.

After conducting a little research into where kingfishers can be found, I came across some information, which may be useful for anyone wishing to photograph the species:

  • Kingfishers are rare birds; notoriously shy and susceptible to disturbance.
  • They are a specially protected species, categorised under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
  • If you are fortunate enough to get close to a nesting pair of kingfishers, it is wise to be cautious, as this may constitute a criminal offence; a special licence will be required.
Kingfisher 3
  • Kingfishers can be very territorial, protecting their stretch of river at regular intervals. With patience and planning, it may be possible to observe the bird from a well placed, but concealed vantage point.
  • During nesting season however, it is particularly important to conceal your presence when taking photographs; human disturbance can interrupt brooding and potentially cause a nest to fail.
  • When locating kingfishers, they can be widespread; particularly in central and southern England, but less common further north.
  • They can be found by still or slow flowing water such as lakes, canals and rivers in lowland areas.

The kingfisher really is a spectacular bird, and whether it is admired as a Museum object, by means of conservation or in its natural habitat, should be treated with utmost respect and appreciation. Although the Manchester Museum’s specimen is not currently on display, there are many other wonderful and diverse birds to be found in our Living Worlds and Nature’s Library galleries; maybe, like me you will be inspired to get out into countryside and seek one of the countless fascinating species. Who know what you might find!


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