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What is a Kingfisher?

The kingfisher is a bird. It is unmistakable with its vivid blue and orange colouring although its habit of perching motionless or flying straight and fast make it very difficult to spot for the casual observer. It’s also unusually proportioned with a long stout beak, extremely short tail and broad wings.


Why are Kingfishers important to the Surrey Hills?

The condition of kingfisher habitat and successful breeding is threatened by:

  • In-channel structures that hinder the movement and breeding of prey fish.
  • Poor water quality. This also affects the supply of small prey fish which the kingfisher is so reliant on.
  • Mechanical clearing of riverbanks that destroys nesting habitat, in particular.

What habitat do Kingfishers like?


Water is the dominant component of many of our most diverse and valuable habitats.  The running water of rivers, streams and ditches; static water bodies in natural lakes and ponds, ephemeral features such as winterbournes and dew ponds, manmade reservoirs and restored gravel pits with canals having the appearance of manmade rivers but more characteristic of a still water body. Water is also vital in terrestrial habitats such as marsh, fen, bog, reedbeds and carr woodland, where its presence is a permanent requirement.   In Surrey it’s estimated that water as habitat (both aquatic and wetland habitats) occupy 3,516 hectares or 2.1% of the county’s land area.   The list of bird, mammal, insect, amphibian, fish and plant species that rely on wetland and aquatic habitats is immense.

The Kingfisher prefers slow flowing rivers and streams, canals and lakes that have shallow waters for fishing and proximity to vertical-faced earth banks to nest in. It is an accomplished tunneller, burrowing up to a metre into a bank to create its nest chamber. Tunnelling, nest incubation and feeding duties are all undertaken by both parents.

What can be done to benefit Kingfishers?

Good management and habitat creation opportunities for kingfishers includes:
  • Naturalised river and stream channels with good, clean gravel beds that can support good populations of prey fish and aquatic insects.
  • Good water quality
  • Availability of undisturbed, vertical earth banks for nesting sites.
Creating and managing areas for Kingfishers will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.