Sunday book review – Kingfishers by David Chandler


This book, published on Thursday, is a celebration of one of our favourite birds; everyone loves a Kingfisher.

If you are out with other birdwatchers and one of you spots a Kingfisher then there is always a note of excitement as the bird is mentioned –  ‘Kingfisher!!’. Nobody ever announces a Kingfisher with a bored tone, it’s always with excitement. The bird is likely to be streaking past at high speed and if you don’t see it quickly then your chance may be gone; the sight is so colourful, the speed is so fast and the moment so fleeting and it would be such a shame to miss it.

This book tells us a lot about the most colourful British bird and it’s a good introduction to bird biology in general. We are told about about Kingfisher nesting and feeding habits, how long they live and their current status, and about other kingfishers across the world (most of which are bigger, many of which don’t eat fish and most of which are brightly coloured too).

The text is generally clear and informative as would be expected from an author who has written on this species before and worked for many years for the RSPB and Birdlife International. There are one or two clunky passages and it seemed slightly odd that the mention of a 30-49% population decline in Europe in the last 13 years was followed closely by ‘The good news is that it is not one of the birds the conservation world is most worried about’.

On every page there is at least one photograph and the book is very attractive thanks to a combination of good design and the most photogenic of subjects.

Everyone loves a Kingfisher these days, but the book reminds us that our not-that-distant past is littered with extraordinary reasons for being nasty to nature. The Kingfisher was killed for its feathers to adorn women’s hats, for stuffed specimens to brighten our rooms and to hang from the ceiling to predict the weather as well as because it was seen as a pest of fish stocks.

This is an attractive and interesting book and would be a particularly good present for someone, from about the age of 10 upwards, who is getting interested in birds as it combines lots of accessible information with beautiful photographs and hints on how to find your own Kingfisher (without disturbing the birds).

Kingfishers by David Chandler is an RSPB Spotlight book published by Bloomsbury.



Remarkable Birds by Mark Avery is published by Thames and Hudson – for reviews see here.

Behind the Binoculars: interviews with acclaimed birdwatchers by Mark Avery and Keith Betton is published by Pelagic – here’s a review and it’s now out in paperback.

Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.

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