Sunday, February 11, 2018

Kingfisher News

One of the best things about gardening organically and sharing your yard with wild creatures is that you never stop learning.  Your home landscape becomes a constant source of interest, rather than just a pretty setting to show off your house.

Last week I had a perfect example of that when I discovered an obvious pellet on our deck near the water.  While it was definitely a pellet, it was an odd pellet, being smaller than I'm used to seeing and very crystalline looking.

I knew "our" pair of belted kingfishers liked to perch on the railing nearby.  Do kingfishers cough up pellets like owls do?  I've never heard of that, but I'm hardly a bird expert.  So I did some internet research....

Lo and behold, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" website, as adults, belted kingfishers DO cough up pellets composed of fish bones and scales, which are usually found near their fishing and roosting sites.  Kingfisher stomach chemistry actually seems to change between their time as nestlings, when an acidic stomach chemistry allows them to digest fish bones, fish scales, and arthropod shells,  and adulthood, when producing pellets that are expelled seems to be the way these hard-to-digest substances are handled.

Another fun fact I learned on this website is that the oldest kingfisher fossil ever found, dated at 2 million years ago, was discovered nearby in Alachua County, Florida.

So the history of kingfishers runs deep here in the northern part of Florida.  Our resident pair doesn't care about that, of course, but they do enjoy the habitat they've found. 

Based on the fact that they've started dive bombing the hooded mergansers when those birds forage between the southern magnolia overhanging the water and the dock across the lake, I'm presuming that the kingfishers have a nest burrow established there. 

I'm looking forward to watching more real life drama play out in our yard as the kingfishers raise their brood during the next few months.  It's great to have front row seats!

No comments: