Feathers fit for a queen

[I think this is my last topic from our Nepal and India trip. So my posts will become more erratic for a while, until after my next trip, to the Bale mountains of Ethiopia, in late February.]

The Common Kingfisher, Albedo atthis, is an accomplished fish catcher, but that is just the start. Preparing the daily catch for eating requires an additional set of skills:*

In Assam, this female caught a very wriggly fish:

dsc06174-1.jpg

So she then bashed it on the branch to incapacitate it:

Bue-eared Kingfisher

It was now stunned (moribund? dead? Who knows?) , so she rotated it to get the scales the right way round:

Bue-eared Kingfisher

And down it went, in one gulp:

Bue-eared Kingfisher

Common kingfishers range through Eurasia (including the UK) and North Africa, and are not threatened.  This is a female, because her lower bill is reddish, just visible if I zoom in to the max on the final shot.

Bue-eared Kingfisher

Kingfishers were valued (ie trapped) by the Victorians for their iridescent blue feathers. The Chinese took the use of kingfisher feathers in jewelry to an extraordinary level. This art form was called Tian-tsui (also spelled Diancui), and the demand for the feathers from Cambodian kingfishers was so huge that they became a major source of income for Cambodia, and contributed to the funding for Angkor Wat. They also came close to extinction.

Look at these astonishing pictures of a late 18th century hairpiece :

fig1and2
Photo from National Museum of Scotland blog

You can read about it here, and its restoration:

https://blog.nms.ac.uk/2018/08/02/phoenixes-in-flight-conservation-of-a-chinese-kingfisher-hair-piece/

I don’t know which species of kingfisher these came from, but the Common Kingfisher is found in Cambodia.

*This fish-eating technique is basically the same as that of the Black-necked Stork, as you can see from this previous post.

https://eyesonthewild.blog/2018/12/02/

But the kingfisher has added the step of dashing it against a branch to stun it, something that bee-eaters also do with their prey,

2 thoughts on “Feathers fit for a queen”

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