Kotare conundrum.

The Sacred Kingfisher or Kōtare in Maori (Todiramphus sanctus) inhabits much of our coastland here in New Zealand and in many parts of Australia as well as the interior.
Closely related genetically to the Australian Kookaburra, both are classified as Kingfishers and both wield a disproportionately hefty bill to body size. I have been along with a few other enthusiasts photographing these birds about as often as the weather allows.

As always click on the image to see a larger version.

Meet some of the characters.

Meet some of the characters.

Coming in with a small crab

Coming in with a small crab

When I decided to write this blog post I set out to find out as much as I could about these birds.
To my surprise very little is known about them, especially in regards to the physiological appearance between juveniles, adult males and females.
Looking back through my historical archives (Lightroom) I find I took my first digital image of a Kotare on the 4th of January 2007.

Appearance.
I have to admit right from the get go, I’m a sucker for colour and when it comes to colour the Kotare has it in spades, only in my books does the Tui have the same variation in colour depending on the light value. Sometimes Bluish sometimes more greenish, the Kotare is one attractive bird.
The female appears from the descriptions I’ve gleaned from the Google god to be the bigger bird than males and less colorful.
I’m guessing that being the case female birds display a mottled front as opposed to the bright uniform yellow of the smaller male this sets the two sexes apart.
Juveniles are less colourful, untidy in appearance and have a brownish back.

The Male Kotare is smaller but more colourful

The Male Kotare is smaller but more colourful

The Female is the larger bird but less colourful

The Female is the larger bird but less colourful

The young birds appearance is scruffy and unkempt, much like humans

The young birds appearance is scruffy and unkempt, much like humans

Habbits.
The Kotare is a truly adaptable bird, making good use of a wide range of environments from coastal areas to the interior rural farmlands.
The Birds I have been photographing live in a coastal inlet, their lives governed by the tides and water surface conditions.
Mostly our birds live on crabs, they perch on any structures that give a vantage point, where they watch the tidal flats for the movement of crabs.

A female Kotare has spied breakfast.

A female Kotare has spied breakfast.

Once they lock onto a target they dive or swoop down, grab the crab and return to their perch where they smash the crab against the perch, breaking off the legs of the crab, killing the crab and softening the outer shell for easier swallowing.

once locked there is little chance for the unfortunate crab , its just a matter of launching the attack.

once locked there is little chance for the unfortunate crab , its just a matter of launching the attack.

The Kotare returns to his perch with his dinner

The Kotare returns to his perch with his dinner

smashing the crab against the perch breaks off the legs, kills the crab and softens the outer shell

smashing the crab against the perch breaks off the legs, kills the crab and softens the outer shell

Much of the crab shells, accumulate in the stomach and is then regurgitated later in the form of a shell capsule.
Other food sources include small fish, mice, lizards and a myriad of insects.

Here comes the shell capsule

Here comes the shell capsule

the process can be laborious

the process can be laborious

But once disposed of there is more room for crabs

But once disposed of there is more room for crabs

There seems a social order but as yet I have been unable to identify the top birds. Room for the best perch can get heated and shuffling for top spot seems to be a bit of a sport.
Getting the perfect shot has become a bit of an obsession, not only with myself but with a number of likeminded photographers and it isn’t out of the ordinary to find 3-6 people hiding in camo blankets cameras loaded on tripods, aimed at the purposely placed perches.

Hmmm yummy

Hmmm yummy


So far I’m reasonably happy with my results and fairly confident that with more practice and better technique some better results will come. I hope you enjoy my efforts so far and I’ve included some variety so you don’t get bored with Kotare pics LoL.

Sliding into first base

Sliding into first base

My Photographic advice for this post is stay late and wait for the golden hour.
these following shots were all taken as the light was all but gone.

Red-billed Gulls in the late everning sun.      Pauatahanui Inlet Wellington coast New Zealand

Red-billed Gulls in the late everning sun. Pauatahanui Inlet
Wellington coast
New Zealand

Pauatahanui Inlet Wellington          New Zealand

A Pied Stilt hunts for worms in the setting sun.      Pauatahanui Inlet Wellington coast New Zealand

A Pied Stilt hunts for worms in the setting sun. Pauatahanui Inlet
Wellington coast
New Zealand

Kaki anau the Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

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4 thoughts on “Kotare conundrum.

  1. I am not one of your club but must say this really a breathtaking post you have here! How on earth do you get these beautiful photos?(I know hours and hours of shooting and waiting)

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