Kingfishers, though they remind us of royalty, don’t exactly live like them. This I observed during a recent visit to Mudumalai.
Having seen many a White Throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) and Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) at work, I had assumed that hunting aquatic prey came easy to them. It took an uncommon Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) to set right my misconception.
In a tank used for irrigation I had come across a Common Kingfisher perched patiently on a stump of wood close to the water. As I observed the bird, it took off. My disappointment lasted only a wingbeat as the bird came back with breakfast in its beak. I have an almost photographic recollection of the fraction of a second when the Common Kingfisher vanished completely into the water and re-emerged. It took that fraction of a second of awe for me to rate the kingfisher as an adept hunter. A fraction of a second is too short a moment to judge, I was to realize in another fraction of a second, as I saw the Kingfisher dive into the water three more times and return empty-beaked.
Coincidentally, the night before on Animal Planet I watched a documentary, which evinced that a Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) manages a successful hunt only on four out of ten chases while the African Lion (Panthera Leo) has an even lower hit rate of three in ten.
I remember a line from a chapter in my high school English textbook, which went something like: “Only the one whose throat is parched by the desert heat knows the value of water.”
As I munched my easily earned lunch, I chewed on that. Food for thought: “Does a meal earned after much struggle taste better than the delectable fare from Gusto’s Kitchen?”