The Oresteian Tragedy of the Kingfisher

Courtesy Deb Whittam

Imagine this: You are on the savanna or the veld, whichever is easier to spell. You are surrounded by five killer silverback gorillas. Two seem on the verge of attack and one is furiously signing for orange juice. Your life seems over when suddenly, out of the darkness, the call of the kingfisher sounds. The gorillas scatter like cockroaches at an iguana convention. You’ve been saved…

To avoid the kingfisher (Alcedinidae) you’d have to go to the Sahara Desert, China, Russia or the less habitable parts of Canada, which doesn’t seem like a lot to ask of anyone. Certainly, the kingfisher isn’t much of a bird: They seldom weigh more than a The Blue-eared Kingfisher is a Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty ...pound. They have big heads, short legs and stumpy tails. The kind of bird you’d take back to the pet shop if you’d received it as a gift and trade it for a canary. Unlike most bird species, the males look a lot like the females… so, if you have to guess a gender, just play some waltz music and see who leads.

Kingfishers are of the Alcedinidae family, although you’d never know it by talking to one. They often have sharp dagger-like beaks and brown irises that are just, well, “dreamy”. Their beaks are adapted to what they eat which is probably not fish. Some eat fish, but most concentrate on crustaceans, frogs, worms, mollusks, insects, spiders, centipedes, reptiles, other birds, small mammals and a lot of aggression. The red-backed kingfisher smashes the nests of other birds and eats their young which seems kind of mean but maybe they have a history…

A lot of forest species, such as the Marquesan Kingfisher, are threatened with extinction because their habitat is being cut down. Those species are expected to die out unless they learn how to eat lumberjacks. Some forest species, like the Yellow-Bellied Kingfisher, are not in danger of extinction at all because they live in Australia where lumberjacks have mostly been killed by venomous snakes, lizards and horrible half-mammal/half-bird things. So, like an opium den, it’s all about location, location, location…

Kingfishers mostly hang out motionless for long periods of time until they spot a menu item; then, they swoop down (or up, if the prey is a bird in flight or a meteor), take the prey in their beaks and gobble it down. If it is one of the species of Paradise Kingfisher, it might give it a bash against a tree trunk for good measure.

How an Eye Surgeon Got a Picture of This Rare Pastel Bird - The ...Alcedinidae have been around since Hector was a pup. Fossils have been found dating back to the Eocene era. Paleontologists might have found a whole lot more of them if it weren’t for all that rock. As it is, we know that ancient kingfishers had large heads, short legs and stumpy tails and were often traded for canaries.

Kookaburras are kingfishers and also the cutest bird you’ll ever throw a shoe at. They eat mice, snakes, insects, small reptiles, and the young of other birds. They almost never eat fish. If they do, it is usually on a Friday. Of the four species of Kookaburra, The most famous is the Laughing Kookaburra: Ornithologists agree that, despite their small size, they get on your nerves pretty quickly. Australians created the Silver Kookaburra coin which has Queen Elizabeth II on one side and a Kookaburra on the other. Many Australians didn’t want some old bird on a coin but the Australian people decided to put the queen on the coin, anyway…

By the way, the Sacred Kingfisher is thought by Polynesians to have control over the ocean and its movement. It is not threatened… in fact, no one does ANYTHING that might tick it off…

18 thoughts on “The Oresteian Tragedy of the Kingfisher

  1. Like the Marquesan Kingfisher, the Kingfisher in the White House is also threatened with extinction (unless he manages to kill the November election). Or he preserve himself by volunteering to live in a zoo other than the White House.

    Liked by 1 person

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