Kingfishers

moon phase Week of 01/27/2002 Best days to plant above-ground

Kingfishers

The tiny meandering stream winds itís way through a pasture and forms a small pond before moving along. These small creeks are numerous around here and they do a great service for the wildlife as well as the farmerís livestock.

As I drive along the country backroads the creeks pass under me here and there. I always slow down a bit so I can get a glimpse of what might be hanging around the water. A muskrat or beaver may be sitting on the bank or maybe a skunk, coon or possum could be seen patrolling for food. I could get lucky and see a mink or weasel or maybe even a playful otter.

A flock of turkeys that has come down from the woods will line up on the banks and drink from a fresh- water stream. A great blue heron may have to move out of the way to make room for the turkeys.

In the summer a stream is a good place to see swallows flying up and down its banks searching for insects. The truth is, nearly all forms of wildlife visit these creeks and small streams. Itís a good place to find food as well as drink.

These small water-ways may be teeming with minnows, tadpoles and frogs, not to mention many kinds of aquatic insect life.

Today the shoreline is covered with ice and the temperature is around 10 degrees. The bitter cold hasnít dampened the spirit of a kingfisher who sits on a low branch and watches the babbling brook below him. Where the racing water empties into a pool. The minnows gather. If the kingfisher is patient he will drive headfirst into the cold water and catch his breakfast.

The hardy kingfisher is a very unique bird in his lifestyle and his hunting habits. It doesnít seem to matter how cold a Wisconsin winter day might be. As long as thereís some open water the kingfisher will go fishing.

Almost always seen sitting by themselves but not minding the solitude, the kingfisher spends much of their time watching and waiting.

Kingfishers appear to have a head thatís too big for their bodies. This is due in part from the exaggerated hackles or tufts of feathers off the backs of their heads. These bluejay sized birds are blue-gray with a white belt under their chins and around their neck and have a blue-gray breast and a white belly underneath.

The female kingfisher is a rarity in the bird world because she is more colorful than the male. She sports an extra chestnut colored belt across the lower chest.

The kingfisherís voice is a hardy chuckle as they fly from one place to the next. As they fly up the stream they may stop and hover in mid-air to watch for movement that tells them where the minnows are. If this isnít a good spot to go fishing, they will give out a cheerful laugh and fly away.

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