indeed is this charming bird now found in England, where formerly it could be
seen darting hither and thither in most frequented places. Of late years,
according to Dixon, he has been persecuted so greatly, partly by the collector,
who never fails to secure the brilliant creature for his cabinet at every
opportunity, and partly by those who have an inherent love for destroying every
living object around them. Gamekeepers, too, are up in arms against him, because
of his inordinate love of preying on the finny tribe. Where the Kingfisher now
is seen is in the most secluded places, the author adds, where the trout streams
murmur through the silent woods, but seldom trod by the foot of man; or in the
wooded gullies down which the stream from the mountains far above rushes and
tumbles over the huge rocks, or lies in pools smooth as the finest mirror.
The Kingfisher is comparatively a silent bird, though he sometimes utters a few harsh notes as he flies swift as a meteor through the wooded glades. You not infrequently flush the Kingfisher from the holes in the banks, and amongst the brambles skirting the stream. He roosts at night in holes, usually the nesting cavity. Sometimes he will alight on stumps and branches projecting from the water, and sit quiet and motionless, but on your approach he darts quickly away, often uttering a feeble seep, seep, as he goes.
The habits of the English Kingfisher are identical with those of the American, though the former is the more brilliant bird in plumage.
ancients had a very absurd idea as to its nesting habits. They believed that the
bird built a floating nest, and whenever the old bird and her charge were
drifted by the winds, as they floated over the briny deep, the sea remained
calm. He was, therefore, to the ancient mariner, a bird held sacred in the
extreme. Even now these absurd superstitions have not wholly disappeared. For
instance, the nest is said to be made of the fish bones ejected by the bird,
while the real facts are, that they not only nest but roost in holes, and it
must follow that vast quantities of rejected fish bones accumulate, and on these
the eggs are of necessity laid.
These eggs are very beautiful objects, being of a deep pinkish hue, usually six in number.
The food of the Kingfisher is not composed entirely of fish, the remains of fresh-water shrimps being found in their stomachs, and doubtless other animals inhabiting the waters are from time to time devoured.
The English Kingfisher, says Dixon, remains throughout the year, but numbers perish when the native streams are frozen. There is, perhaps, not a bird in all the ranks of the feathered gems of equatorial regions, be it ever so fair, the Humming-bird excepted, that can boast a garb so lovely as this little creature of the northland. Naturalists assert that the sun has something to do with the brilliant colors of the birds and insects of the tropics, but certainly, the Kingfisher is an exception of the highest kind. Alas, that he has no song to inspire the muse of some English bard!