Halcyon days

Halcyon Smyrnensis is a wonderful name for the white-breasted kingfisher. The OED says of the halcyon that it is “a mythical bird said by ancient writers to breed in a nest floating at sea at the winter solstice, charming the wind and waves into calm.” It certainly charms me to a halt every time I see it. The bright flash of blue on the back and the large white bib bracketing a chestnut colour that cascades down from its head, and the red beak and legs, are something that always makes me raise my camera for a shot. I was very lucky with the light near Tadoba lake. I got the glint in its eye as it turned its head.

Izmir, formerly known as Smyrna, is perhaps where the earliest reports of this bird to reach Linnaeus originated. That seems to be the origin of its specific name. It is found in Turkey and a broad band eat of it all the way to Indonesia, avoiding only the desert to the south of the Gulf of Oman. I see scattered records of sightings down the Red Sea, in Alexandria, Mecca, and Medina, even in Riyadh and Muscat. I’m not really surprised, since I’ve found it eating all kinds of things: snails, insects, and even stolen scraps of meat.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

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