The long lasting freeze that hit the Netherlands this winter was fatal for about half of country’s native Common Kingfishers. Dutch bird research group SOVON conducted the survey on the little birds that rely on unfrozen waters for survival.
The Dutch name for Kingfisher, IJsvogel, means “Ice Bird” – although these small fishing birds have no love for ice.
IJsvogel by Corin@ 2008, Creative Commons on Flickr
The worst losses took place in the provinces of Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Gelderland, which suffered some of the coldest temperatures and longest freezes. In Gelderland, 39 Kingfishers were counted as late as December, but in January only 3 remained and in February only one was counted.
After such a large population decline, it will take several years for Dutch Kingfishers to rebound. After eleven years of relatively warm winters, more and more Kingfishers were remaining in the country rather than migrating south. The population of nesting Kingfishers in Holland also increased during these mild years.
The exact toll on the Dutch Kingfishers won’t be known until the fall. After the breeding season the birds will be more visible and surveys will be possible to tally their numbers.