The Sacred Kingfisher or kōtare in Māori inhabits much of our coastal areas here in New Zealand during the winter and invades the interior during the summer to nest and raise young.
Closely related genetically to the Australian Kookaburra, both are classified as Kingfishers and both wield a disproportionately hefty bill to body size.
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A few years ago a friend and I set out to find as much as we could about these birds and
to my surprise, very little is known about them.
We remain a little confused in regards to the physiological appearance between juveniles, adult males and females. Some birds go bluer during the summer while others are blue all year round.
Looking back through my historical archives (Lightroom) I find I took my first digital image of a Kotare on the 4th of January 2007.
I have to admit right from the get-go, I’m a sucker for colour and when it comes to colour the kōtare 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 kōtare is one attractive bird.
From what I’ve gleaned from the Google god the female appears to be the bigger bird overall than males and less colourful.
I’m guessing that being the case female displays 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 kōtare 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 during the winter months.
Mostly our birds live on crabs, they perch on any structures that give them a vantage point, where they watch into the water as the tide recedes or comes in and over the exposed tidal flats for the movement of crabs on low tide.
Casting the crab shell
Much of the crab shells kōtare consume accumulate in the stomach and is then regurgitated later in the form of a shell capsule. This process is called casting
Other food sources include small fish, mice, lizards and a myriad of insects.
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.
Wither the kōtare comes in the blue or green models they never fail to impress me.
The Blue-backed kōtare version
The Green-backed kōtare version
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.
My overall Photographic sage advice for getting the best possible images of these birds would be to get to your location early or stay late and wait for the golden hour. The soft light brings the best colours out in these birds.