Kingfishers a vision in blue

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Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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A series drawing on the knowledge of local people by Geraldton Guardian reporter Geoff Vivian.

Sacred kingfishers are departing for their winter migration now, leaving their nesting hollows behind them.

Handbook on Western Australian Birds author Ron Johnstone said they mostly nested in holes in trees but sometimes burrowed into termite mounds, cliff faces or sandbanks.

Local birdwatchers have found them in even more unusual places.

Chapman Valley birdwatcher Freda Blakeway said her family had a large round bale set up on their farm as an archery target.

“It was a bit surprising when a kingfisher popped out of a small hole,” she said.

“How lucky it was not to have been hit, as the hole was a prime target.

“It then spent quite a while going in and out, each time spitting out a beak full of straw.”

Mrs Blakeway said there were two pairs of kingfishers vying for the use of the bale but the second pair had to wait until the first family had fledged.

“I also had the experience of peering into a low hollow and being surprised by a kingfisher leaving in a hurry,” she said.

“I was lucky not to have been hit in the eye — there is a message here I think.”

Other birdwatchers report frequent sightings at Bluff Point and Tarcoola Beach.

Janet Newell said kingfishers were relatively common in Geraldton.

“They live in bushland and not just near water as you may assume for a kingfisher,” she said.

Kingfishers are known for their distinctive “ki-ki-ki” call and their habit of catching fish.

At various times of the year they can be found in better-watered parts of WA from the Kimberley to Esperance, and in eastern Australia, Indonesia, and east to the Bismarck and Solomon Islands.

They generally return to the colder parts of Australia between late August and late October. However, not all kingfishers seem to migrate. Local Birdlife Australia members saw one at the Chapman River near the footbridge late last month and others have been seen wintering at Rottnest.

Kingfishers are not considered a threatened species.

Birdlife Australia’s local chapter can be contacted on 0438 643 773.

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