Thursday, 21 September 2017

Black-winged kingfisher

It is amazing how much colour variation there is in kingfishers, all depending on the light.  This young female was already waiting when I got to the hide just after sunrise.  The sun was very low and the rays were very oblique.  I was very struck by the colour of her wings - through the viewfinder they were almost black.

Although we see it as a turquoise and orange bird a kingfisher's head, back and wing feathers are really brown and the colours we see are a product of semi-iridescence.  Its orange feathers do contain orange pigment granules but vertebrates are generally unable to produce blue pigment.  The variations on blue that we see are produced entirely by interaction between the wavelength of the light and the microstructure of the feathers.

Here is the same bird a little while later - the sun was higher and had moved round a bit.

Here she is a bit later still.

Compare these photos with one from a year ago when the low early morning sun was directly behind me.  This chap looks green.

Incidentally I haven't discovered a new species and there isn't really a black-winged kingfisher but in other parts of the world you can find a black-billed kingfisher and a brown-winged kingfisher.


  1. Beauty (colours) are literally in the eye of the beholder. Wonderful photo captures of a lovely little bird!

    1. That would have been a good title for the post - if only I had thought of it.