While kingfishers in the UK tend to live near rivers and eat fish, most of the kingfisher species in the world live away from water and eat small invertebrates. A quarter of all kingfishers nest in disused termite nests: the kingfisher flies into the nest’s wall, stabbing it with its beak until it makes a hole. This strategy is occasionally fatal.
Kingfishers may look bright blue, but they are actually a murky brown colour. This is due to the difference between pigmented and structural colouration. If we were to just see the light reflected directly from the wings it would be brown, but actually the light bounces around the structure of the wings, causing iridescent colouring.
Kookaburras are a type of kingfisher.
It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.
Kingfishers have transparent membranes on their eyes to protect them when diving.
Halcyon days were periods of calm weather, traditionally the seven days each side of the winter solstice on 21 December. They are named after the kingfisher, whose Greek name was ‘halcyon’.
Pliny the Elder wrote of the kingfisher: ‘They hatch their young at the time of the winter solstice, from which circumstance those days are known as the "halcyon days": during this period the sea is calm and navigable, the Sicilian sea in particular. They make their nest during the seven days before the winter solstice, and sit the same number of days after. Their nests are truly wonderful; they are of the shape of a ball slightly elongated, have a very narrow mouth, and bear a strong resemblance to a large sponge.’
The reason that eggs are egg-shaped is so that they will roll in circles rather than straight; for an egg sitting high in a tree, this is very important. Kingfishers lay their eggs on the ground, and so theirs are much rounder.
Kingfishers dive so fast that they can penetrate a layer of ice to catch a fish.
There came the Halcyon, whom the Sea obeyes,
When she her nest upon the water layes.
Species of Kingfisher include Moustached Kingfisher, Mewing Kingfisher, Bismarck Kingfisher, Sombre Kingfisher and Ruddy Kingfisher. In Peru, they call the kingfisher a camaronero meaning a 'catcher of prawns', and in Norway it is a isfugl or 'ice bird' because it is associated with the fine weather that precedes winter.
In England, it was a country custom to use kingfishers as indoor weather vanes: the theory was that if you suspended a dead kingfisher from a string in your house its beak would point in the direction that the weather was moving.
Kingfishers are filthy - their nests will contain a stinking pile of fish bones and piles of droppings.
There are 87 different species of kingfisher in the world, but only one, Alcedo atthis, breeds in Europe.