Kingfisher Bird Alcedo atthis
Swift on the wing and clinical in attack, kingfishers are assisted by their amazing ocular faculty. Adaptable between monocular in flight, and binocular in the dive, the kingfisher is able to judge its course with breath-taking precision. During winter, this is especially beneficial as the kingfisher needs to eat around seven times its body weight each day. Determining between male and female kingfishers can be difficult as they are strikingly similar in appearance. But one key difference is the orange shading to the female beak; a male’s, as can be seen here, is all black.
Kingfisher birds are such beautiful colourful birds – the British kingfisher is blue and orange and lives near streams and waterways. These birds are from the halcyon family in Latin and is where we get the term halcyon days. It is often misspelt as halycon days. It is based on an interesting Greek legend about the goddess Halcyon and her husband Ceyx. After incurring the wrath of the gods, Ceyx was drowned at sea and when Halcyon saw this in a dream sent by Morpheus she drowned herself too. According to the Greek myth, they were apparently turned into kingfishers by the gods and allowed only a few weeks of tranquillity and calm to lay eggs and breed. The halcyon days (or alkionides meres) of sunny days, calm winds and seas depict the idea of happy short summer days of happiness.
Kingfisher birds have a short body, a large head and short tail. The kingfishers magnificent colours are extraordinary and a delight to see and paint as an artist. Iridescent emerald green and cobalt blue colours interchange depending on the angle of the light are seen on the kingfishers upper body and back. A pale cerulean blue narrow cape runs from neck to tail. Underneath the bird and on the kingfishers cheeks the plummage is a warm burnt orange colour. The kingfishers legs are bright red in colour. There is white under the chin and on the side of the face. The kingfisher’s cap has a mottled pattern of cerulean blue and darker blues. In flight and when diving into a stream to fish the kingfisher is a darting flash of blues and orange. They are excellent fishers perching and hovering over the water searching for minnows and sticklebacks. I have only once seen a kingfisher and that was in Guildford, Surrey near the town centre as I walked along a riverbank. I did not expect to see this beautiful kingfisher near so much traffic and people.
Interesting fact: Surprisingly, the dazzling blue of the kingfisher is a result of Tyndall scattering, and not a naturally occurring pigment.
As always I use Windsor and Newton Artist quality paints to ensure that I get the beautiful translucent colours of nature and a good quality watercolour paper such as Arches. Sable watercolour brushes always give the best results since they are natural, form a find point and hold much paint.
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