Halcyon Journey: Searching for Kingfishers

Kingfishers are birds more often heard than seen. Walk next to Bear Creek here in the Rogue Valley and you will probably hear them, though seeing them is not so easy.

Fortunately, we have a new book about the kingfisher by Marina Richie to shed light on this fascinating bird. Marina takes us along with her as she turns citizen scientist in pursuit of kingfishers along a Montana riverbank and, over time, around the world. Part memoir, part scientific investigation, bird lovers will comes away with a new understanding about this species and their extended family.

For instance, I did not realize that there are 120 species of kingfisher around the world — and that many species do not actually do much in the way of fishing. The largest member of the family, and quite possibly the most fabulously vocal, is the Laughing Kookaburra of Australia.

Here in the US, the belted kingfisher can be found pretty much in every state. And though the bird is not considered at risk, like all birds, the species is under increasing pressure.

If you have not yet seen a kingfisher, find a river and you might find one. And if you happen to see a kingfisher with a belt, you are looking at the female of the species. Unlike most bird species, the females are the more brightly feathered, a source of another investigative pursuit in the book.

Finally, I appreciate the author’s efforts to avoid referring to the kingfisher as “it” — a common practice in animal literature that, sadly, demotes animals to a lesser position in the eyes of us human readers. By avoiding “it” writers place non-human animals on equal linguistic footing with us humans; we are all members of the same family after all.

Halcyon Journey: In Search of the Belted Kingfisher
Marina Ritchie
Oregon State University Press


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