Conventional wisdom tells us that once the juvenile kingfishers fledge from the nest there is a 3-4 day window where the parents will teach the young how to fish, where to fish and will keep them stocked up on tiddlers while they learn the ropes. Then when those learning days are over the parents will aggressively move the juveniles along chasing them off the territory. Here’s a quote from the RSPB website “Once out of the nest, the young are fed for only four days before the adults drive them out of the territory and start the next brood.” Last week that window opened for me when the local kingfishers fledged, but sometimes what you read isn’t always what happens!
I first noticed the juvenile were out on Monday evening, The river was very noisy with calling kingfishers as they flew up and down but they didn’t settle and appeared to be just following the adult bird. On Tuesday lunchtime I got my first view as the three youngsters settled opposite me, spaced out on seperate posts noisily calling as the adults flew past.
But on Wednesday night I was in kingfisher heaven. The juveniles were dotted around on various perchs and the male was around keeping an eye on them before disappearing on a fishing expedition.
On his return he landed with a fish and the three young quickly flew in to try and be the one that grabbed the meal. For a few minutes I had the amazing sight of four kingfishers sat directly in front of me!!
The male kept this up for a couple of hours and despite the rain I was mesmerised. I’d read about the 3-4 day window so I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by, after all they would be gone by Saturday, wouldn’t they?
I sat on the riverbank at every opportunity and began to notice that in none of my photo’s or on any occasion had I seen the female. It seems as though the male has raised these three on his own.
As the juveniles became more confident I watched them attempt to fish for themselves, repeatedly diving but only occasionally coming up with a reward. But they were learning and if they were to be chased off soon, it was a lesson they had to learn as quickly as possible.
As always it was a gamble as to which side of the river to sit on but as the days went on it didn’t really matter and the perchs I had put out earlier were in constant use for preening, attempted fishing or waiting for the next meal.
Saturday came and I was treated to another spectacular day but surely they’d be gone soon, the 3/4 day window must be closing.
Yesterday was a week after fledging and they were still around and still being fed by the male.
So it seems nature doesn’t always conform to what the books and experts say.
It may be that the loss of the female has meant the males paternal instinct has overridden the need to chase them off, and with no partner to try for another brood has meant he will tolerate the juveniles for a bit longer. I do hope so. As many of you know, I’m a bit obsessed with these beautiful birds and the longer they’re around the happier I’ll be. As soon as they’re gone the riverside will be a lot quieter place.
Until next year!!