In the UK, there is just one species of Kingfisher, the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). Its beautiful, metallic blue and orange plumage stands out prominently, and its fast, swooping motion is incredible as it dives towards water to collect fish. They seem the ideal hunter, flying rapidly, eying prey closely and exacting the right moment for capturing their target with immense precision. Those rivers with overhanging branches make for ideal perches upon which kingfishers may begin their hunt for prey.
It is part of the Alcedinidae family, which extends around the world and contains numerous varieties. Interestingly, most kingfishers around the world are quite unlike our UK variety, whose habit it is to live closer to water than to land. In fact, you will find that in the UK, Kingfishers tend to favour slow-flowing rivers or motionless water in relatively lowland areas; perhaps the slow-moving water provides greater visibility for the Kingfisher to spot fish: moving too quickly, the water would create a gargling, bubbling, or even swirling, mass on the surface, preventing the bird from seeing a clear view of any fish swimming beneath.
Kingfishers are resident all year round in the UK, although they may exhibit some short migratory behaviour, for instance over harsh winters they may migrate near to coastal areas, but rarely further than that.
They can be observed in many parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, though only in southern and eastern areas of Scotland all year round. On the Isle of Man, they are passing migrants only.
Listed as Amber status on the Birds of Conservation Concern list (BoCC), Kingfishers are particularly vulnerable to habitat degradation and watercourse pollution. In fact, the long-time population decline since 1970 is, according to the RSPB, due primarily to river pollution, especially those near industrial towns and cities. Such heavily polluted rivers tend not to be home to significant populations of fish, and hence do not attract kingfishers.