Reader alert: This is another road kill story - so if you find photos of freshly dead creatures offensive or "tasteless"- kindly come back tomorrow.
Today as I was driving to the Barrengrounds to show some British birdwatchers around there, a Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) flew into the wing mirror of my car. It was killed outright. I stopped and went straight back, and the bird was lying there, intact. it had not been squashed, simply stunned by the impact, but dead. It was a shame, but it was totally beyond my control. The bird literally flew into my car. I decided to make the best of it, to take some photos for reference purposes - and to share them on the Blog.
Firstly this is what a Sacred kingfisher looks like, close up. It is a beautiful bird, with a subtle blue and green colour blend on its back and wings. Underneath it has a buff colour. As with all Kingfishers (including Kookaburras), it has a huge head in relation to its body (compared to most other types of birds).The colours of the feathers on the back and wings look quite different, depending upon which direction one is looking from. *** This is because of the high sheen on the feathers, and hence the reflectivity of the colours. In one direction, the blue colours are darker and richer. In the other direction, the greenish tones (in the same feathers) are more prominent. I have used the background cloth as a guide, to ensure the "lightness" of the two images is as equal as possible. So the variation in colour of the birds feathers is a genuine "trick of the light", not because of variation in lightness of the two images. I have not altered the "colour balance" in any way.
The next image is of the head and beak of the kingfisher - seen at close range. For some reason the dot of ochre colour in front of the eye, seems very prominent. It is a genuinely beautiful bird.
The next feature of interest in Kingfishers is their foot structure. What you can see here is "normal" for Kingfishers. They have 3 forward pointing toes, and one rear pointing toe. But two of the toes are partially fused. You can clearly see what I mean in the upper foot in this next image. The two outer toes are joined much further along the foot than the inside toe - which separates from the foot pad at a much lower level.
From above, the toes are also clearly visible as being partially fused. This structure is known by biologists as "syndactyly" - meaning joined toes (from "syn"- together and "dactyl" - toe or finger). In human medicine, this term is used for an unusual condition, where two toes are partially fused.
In birds, as Wikipedia explains: "Syndactyly" ... is ..... that the third and fourth toes (the outer and middle forward-pointing toes), or three toes, are fused together." This foot structure is typical of Kingfishers and their relatives, Rollers ("Dollar Bird") and Bee-eaters ("Rainbow bird").
It is from structural features such as this that taxonomists trace related groups of birds. In Marsupials, they look at the toe structures, and teeth, to draw conclusions about related groups of animals.
Here is the group of bird watchers I was with today - my friends Len (right) and Jan (left), and British visitors, Elizabeth and Tony. In the background you can see the coast, near Kiama. This photo was taken at the "Illawarrra Lookout" in the Barrengrounds. It is a lovely spot, directly beside the top of the Escarpment, overlooking Jamberoo. On our way back to the car park, we saw an Echidna walking slowly across the track. It stopped for a bit of a scratch, which looked like quite process. My third Echidna in a week!
*** Editor's note:
The angle of the sun, relative to the bird and the observer, can seriously change the perceived colour of the bird. That's what I wanted to say last night, but could not think how to express it clearly.
Published photos of this species vary from light bluish-green to deep blue (with no visible trace of green). That's why I published the two photos of the same bird from different angles - to show the variation is to do with angle of light - not a difference in the birds.
Thanks to Mick for raising the query in the "Comments" about her old photos of this species, and the different colours she has recorded.