Is the kingfisher really in danger of extinction?: Country diary, 20 January 1920 | Environment


Owing largely to the unjustifiable and, for the matter of that, illegal persecution of the brightly-coloured kingfisher either for hat decoration or as a household ornament, the status of the bird is misunderstood. It is thought to be in danger of extinction. In certain districts the kingfisher is no longer to be found, but this is doubtless due to the fact that it cannot find food in polluted waters; but in others, those who know its call and recognise it by its shape and flight when no sun lights up its prismatic colours realise that it is more plentiful than we should suppose from the wails of the sentimentalist. It is no use to fight a wrong by exaggeration.

The fact that within a week, so I am told, three kingfishers killed themselves by striking a window within the city boundary is interesting. Apart from the light it throws on the numbers of the bird, it raises an interesting question, Why were the three deluded? for deluded they certainly were. Only by seeing that window with an avian eye, and from the position of the approaching kingfisher, could we solve the problem: some trick of light must have given the suggestion of water or an open passage, some reflection on the window glass. Instinct is not infallible, and the bird’s sight, good though it is, sometimes misleads. But the main interest centres in the fact that in an area where the kingfishers are thought to be rare there are actually so many that in a short time three at least reach one particular spot; it is most improbable that these three unfortunates were the only ones about.

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