King on the river


A flash of blue is all I see,

The river and me.

Where are you?

What is that high pitched sound coming from the overhanging bushes touching the river? Was it it a Kingfisher?

The sun came up over Ingleborough as I sat on the riverbank of the Greta waiting with my camera, hoping the King would show itself. 

Six am, I poured a coffee from my flask and got comfy, thinking about how long I had waited to see this magnificent bird.

It was like slow motion, flying just above the water. Silently it landed, bobbing it’s head up and down.

Female Kingfisher, River Greta, Burton on Lonsdale

Looking through the camera, it was like a dream to be so close to this ruthless hunter that catches fish after fish, entering a pitch black tunnel to feed the young.

The young kingfisher is in total darkness and instinct tells it to move back once fed to let the other young feed.

Male Kingfisher before he enters the nest to feed the young

The difference between the male and female is identified by the beak – the male Kingfisher has a black beak and the female’s lower half of the beak is orange.

Both adults feed the young, with around 16 fish a day for each chick. The adult will catch the fish and turn it so the head of the fish is offered to the chick; they do this so the fish scales are facing backwards to prevent the fish getting stuck in the chick’s throat.

Kingfisher checking first before he enters the nest

The adult will enter the tunnel many times and it becomes a very messy place with the young releasing their stomachs in the nest site.

I observed the adult exiting the nest, then diving into the water, then landing on a branch to clean itself. It would dive again, then preen, and then be ready and waiting to catch the next fish.

Female Kingfisher

It was so interesting observing the King on the river Greta – another bird that works endlessly to raise it’s family, however sadly there is always something that amazes me.

Most bird species look after the young until they’re capable of fending for themselves. 

The Kingfisher chicks have two to three days to learn to dive for fish to eat before fledging. If the Kingfisher young can’t dive for food, they drown or die of starvation. Heavy rain at this time will just add to the hardship.

The adults then start the next brood, and two days after the young fledge, the female is ready to lay her eggs again. Maybe doing this gives them more chance of at least one chick reaching adulthood.

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