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Birds of the Water Wood & Waste

The Kingfisher

The Kingfisher.

Throughout any stretch of undulating or steep countryside such as Tutira, road cuttings are necessary parts of the highway, whilst parallel to the main line of traffic must page 15 run telegraph wires, and parallel to the wide roads telephone lines. For the Kingfisher the one provides dry banks into which to burrow, the other convenient perching poles. The Kingfisher has also found out that in New Zealand no respectable person walks on a country road, that the only bipeds who upon their feet utilize the King's Highway are surfacemen and swaggers, the last named lapped during their earthly pilgrimages in dreams of drinks and distances, the surfacemen preoccupied with the more material problems of metal and mud. These warm, well drained road cuttings, therefore, especially their extra dry projecting hummocks, Kingfishers have learnt to look upon as property peculiarly their own. The eggs are incubated, the young birds reared, literally within inches—twenty-four or thirty-six inches—of motor lorries and motor cars that pass, not in twos and threes, but in tens and twenties, pillars of dust by day, and of fire by night. As the clutches laid do not grow less it may be assumed that the Kingfisher's food supply is still ample. There must be more than a sufficiency in spite of the hordes of imported insectivores that now crowd the station, for certainly minahs, and pro- page 16 bably starlings, are devouring one item of the original bill of fare—the dragon fly— whilst both are feeding on another—the cicada. A species, however, so adaptable as the Kingfisher is not likely to go hungry where sparrows are to be obtained. In the meantime local representatives of the breed continue as of yore to draw much of their supplies from the lake, usually diving straight from their perches, though on occasions hovering for a moment preparatory to the splash.