Kingfisher – Alcedo atthis

The common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) unmistakable at the river bank if you’re quick enough to hear the “pip pip” just before it darts across the water or if you spot on perched on a branch or mooring staring keenly at the surface investigating the depths with speary intent. Numbers seem to be on the rise in the UK, personally I’ve seen them fishing regally in at least four different locations over recent weeks, but only with the acquisition of a flashy new lens have I actually been fortunate enough to get a shot at one.

The scientific binomial for this bird currently used derives from the Latin alcedo (from the Greek for kingfisher, halcyon) and Atthis, who was a beautiful young woman of Lesbos, and favourite of Sappho. If you were wondering about that latter word, halcyon its etymology can be found here, suffice to say that its modern meaning of calm and peaceful, as in halcyon days of yore, refers to calm weather before the winter solstice when a mythical bird (something like a kingfisher) would build its nest on the calm seas. (The word has nothing to do with conception nor salt as some sources claim).