Fished up Kingfisher

I just had one of those great endings I always look for. You know, a happy end to a bad situation. (no, unfortunately the Karen next door didn’t move).

Yesterday a woman shows up (in a really nice car, by the way) all in a dither. She didn’t want to wait to call me , she just wanted to get here right away. (Good thing I was home). She had a bird. She had no idea what kind of bird. It had been hanging from a tree by fishing line.

As soon as I heard it trilling from the box, I knew it was a Kingfisher. I’ve raised lots of these and they stay just long enough to clean out any goldfish in my pond.

Kingfishers nest in banks of sand or clay near rivers or lakes. They dig a tunnel (I have no clue how they do this) and build their nest at the back. This unfortunately leads to people accidently digging them up when they move a sand bank or buy some fill dirt. The last batch of babies I got, tumbled out of the scoop of a back hoe and the people thought they were pinecones, till one of them moved.

They really do resemble living, moving pinecones. Their feathers have rather long sheaths covering them (I suppose it has something to do with the dirt that surrounds them) And they kind of stick out like bristles. They only way you know you are looking at a bird at first, is that long, rather sharp beak.

Once you get the dirt brushed off them, their spiky head crest pops up and you get a stern look from piercing black eyes. (They all look fierce, It’s just their “thing” I guess) The next thing you notice is that they have no legs. No legs and tiny little feet. They are not built to walk. Ever. They are built to fly and perch on branches and to dive and swim under water to catch the fish and water bugs they feed on.

The other thing I like about these birds is their coloring. As an adult, they are a deep green with a rusty red breast. They blend in perfectly with the trees they perch in watching the water.

The things i like least are their long sharp beaks and their call. To say a Kingfisher is loud is an understatement. The only birds I have ever raised that is louder, is a bucket full of chimney swifts. (Imagine a rusty smoke detector. Magnify that by however many birds are in that bucket)

I’m not even sure how to describe the call of a Kingfisher. It’s a trilling sound, but has definite overtones of a badly slipping fan belt. They call when they are hungry. They call when you walk through a room, they continue to call even after you move them to a pen outside where they can’t see you. Then when they are free, they call from all over the neighborhood, just to let you know they are there.

Kingfishers are great though, the first few days you may have to force feed them. (usually by prying that sharp beak open and stuffing a catfish nugget down their throat., but they quickly learn to grab that fish or nugget or finger as soon as it appears. You go through a lot of Band-Aids raising Kingfishers. Then suddenly, one day they don’t want you to feed them. They will fight you beak and claw to avoid that catfish nugget. You open the door to the pen and they go. They fly straight up and out, so you better not be in their way.

They never come back to you again. They just scream hello as they fly over you in the garden.

But, back to the bird in hand. I pulled the Kingfisher out of the box, mostly by his beak hanging onto my finger. He continued to gnaw on me as I examined him. A beautiful adult male, he was in perfect prime, except for one wing. His right wing looked as if it had been stripped of feathers from the joint down. There was indeed a very fine red wire fishing line tangled and wound around the remaining primary feather.

It didn’t look good, but I smiled and promised to do my best for him. She left feeling better and promised to try and catch some minnows off their dock. Before she left, she stuffed some cash in my pocket in case she couldn’t. Minnows are expensive.

The bird screamed curses at me and all my offspring as we went in the house and the magnifying light. Once I started working on his wing, he calmed down, almost as if he knew I was trying to help him, though it was most likely exhaustion. I’d never seen fishing line like this, it was almost as fine as a human hair and made of wire. It was tangled and wrapped so tightly that I couldn’t unwind it. Finally I got a darning needle and managed to slip it under the wire and clip the strands and knots with my finest and smallest scissors. (so much for the art of Japanese paper cutting). I came up on the last tangled area at the top of his wing. It took some serious finagling and a few more bites, but the wire was free.

That’s when amazing things started to happen. The feathers were intact. I brushed them back in place with my fingers and straightened them the best I could. I manipulated the wing and nothing was broken or displaced. There was some swelling at the shoulder socket, but otherwise it seemed fine.

I decided that since I already had him pissed off, I’d force feed him some intensive recovery food that comes in a packet to be mixed with water. He actually took it well. I then moved him out to the fawn pen where he could rest in the straw in peace. I only bothered him twice more to feed before dark.

After a night where I listened to the fawns bitch because someone was in their pen (even though they hardly use it any more) I went out to check him in the morning light. He was sitting up (as well as a Kingfisher can sit up with those tiny feet and no legs), he raised his crest and trilled when he saw me. I opened the door. He flew straight past me and is now eyeing the last nervous goldfish in my pond. They will both be gone in a few hours.

If all that wasn’t cool enough. When he reached that tree over the fishless pond. He lifted his head and called out in what sounded like triumph….a dozen others answered from almost every direction.

Hi guys. I’m glad you’re doing well and still around.

I guess I’d better go buy more goldfish.

Leave a Reply