News Article05/06/2019

Kingfishers of Poole Harbour

Our harbour plays an important role for many wintering species, including the well-known wader and wildfowl species. We are inundated with over c25,000 waterbirds during the autumn and winter months, flocking to our mudflats and lagoons for frost-free feeding. But did you know that we have another visitor, traditionally considered a denizen of the riverside, that spends the winter here? Most only make a short journey to the harbour, flitting like a spark of electricity down the Rivers Frome and Piddle, but some have made the journey all the way to Poland. Blink and you might miss the Kingfisher in flight.

The Kingfisher’s migration to the Harbour is one we don’t know in great detail; where do they come from exactly? This is a question we have been asking while watching a recently-arrived Kingfisher from our quayside office, perching on a ladder run that dips into the sea, orange breast puffed in indignation at the encroaching cold. Most of the migrants that set up shop on our shores are juveniles leaving their natal home, easily identified with their ‘dirty feet’ when they arrive.

A Kingfisher at Holton Lee, photo by Sacha Crowley

They start to arrive at Holton Lee and Holes Bay in August and September, with greater numbers appearing from October to settle in the Quay area and Poole Park. Studies of Kingfisher migration in Iberia show that the earliest arrivals are more likely to stay for longer, having become established. Latecomers stayed for a shorter period, presumably having been ousted from all the good spots; the early bird catches they fish, as they say!  The Iberian migration was also dominated by juveniles, with just 6% being adults, and there was an equal ratio of males and females. We hope to conduct similar research into our harbour Kingfishers and gain a better understanding of their migration patterns.

As you go about your winter birdwatching we’d love to know of your kingfisher sightings – your reports will help us build up a bigger picture of the kingfishers in the harbour over the winter.

Where can I see a Kingfisher in the harbour?

– The small bridge over the sluice gate and eastern reedbed in Poole Park lagoon

– The rocky groynes, mooring ropes or ladders at Poole Quay

– Wooden posts at Holton Pools wetland scrapes at Holton Lee

– Shoreline along the Holes Bay NE cycle path

Ageing and sexing Kingfisher

In the early part of the autumn (August and September) adults will have bright orange feet; juveniles feet will appear dark or ‘dirty’ on top. The well recognised orange breast on an adult will be bright and vibrant, where as a freshly arrived juvenile into the harbour will be tinged green on its front. The main differences between sexes are the colour of the bill. By October males will have all dark, black dagger like bills, where as the females have an obvious orange lower mandible.

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