Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Male Kingfisher, Chania, Crete, November 2002 - click for larger image Chania, Crete
November 2002

The Common Kingfisher is found throughout most of Europe in temperate and warmer climates. It is also found across Asia and as far as the Solomon islands.

It is migratory where the winters are harsh but resident in areas such as western Europe and the Mediterranean basin.

It is small and brightly coloured although this colouring does not make it that easy to see in its normal habitat. The crown and wings are greenish-blue while the back and tail are a lighter bright blue. The underparts and cheek patch are orange-red while the throat and side of neck are white. On the male, the long bill is all black while, on the female, the base of the lower mandible is red.
It feeds mainly on fish which it catches by plunging into the water from an over-hanging branch and its nest is a tunnel excavated into the bank of a river or gravel-pit. These features determine the habitat in which the Common Kingfisher is found. It requires clear, ice-free water with nearby vegetation for perches and suitable banks for nesting.

In winter it sometimes move to the coast and may frequent harbours as seen in this photo taken in Crete.

The attractive colours are reflected in its specific name, Atthis, who was a beautiful girl from Lesbos and a favourite of the poetess Sappho.

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