By Claudia Villacian Casado
Natural Kingdom: Wild Walls are a series of wildlife and nature murals in cities and towns across the UK. These murals represent our collective concern about the loss of wildlife and climate change in the UK, and internationally. Working with communities, young people, partners, and artists up and down the country we will be highlighting the importance of nature, especially for fighting climate change. The murals will be created between now and the end of September and will be accompanied by lots of political and community activity in the run up to COP26 .
Find me here: Atlas Place, Cardiff, Wales CF5 1PG.
A loud and high pitched chirping sound fills the air around Cardiff Bay. Once you’ve had a chance to register the sound, something beautiful, bright blue and copper-toned whizzes past you staying near the water’s surface – the unmistakable Cardiff Kingfisher! Found all year round, the Kingfisher, or Alcedo atthis, can usually be found by bodies of slow-moving water with occasional migration to coasts and estuaries for the winter. As a result, the Kingfisher is heavily reliant on healthy and clean water for their survival. One of the biggest threats to the Kingfisher are events that affect where they source their food from, as they have to eat around 60% of their body weight every day. These threats range from flooding, which makes hunting for fish more difficult, to industrial pollution and agricultural run-off, which strips away their access to healthy fish. Apart from this, Kingfishers are also threatened by extreme weather conditions, traffic and window collisions, and disturbances to their nesting sites. These increasing threats mean that the Kingfisher is classified as ‘amber’ by conservationists and there has been a population decline since the 1970s – meaning action needs to be taken now to protect them.
How are we helping, and how you can too.
Kingfisher’s are at risk in our changing climate. To help, you can:
- Visit the mural, take a picture, draw it, post it online and celebrate its beauty!
- Get in touch with your local MP or councillor, write them a letter, and tell them why protecting and restoring nature is so important! We can help you get started here
- Support organisations like North Wales Wildlife Trust – get in touch with them, tell them about the mural, why you care, and let’s fight together!
- Paint/Draw/Write about your own experiences with the species and @ukyouth4nature on socials
But what makes the Kingfisher so special and why should we fight for their protection? As one of the most striking birds in the UK, the Kingfisher’s plumage is not it’s only impressive quality. In order to hunt for food, the Kingfisher first needs to find a spot to perch on while it finds its prey. Once it’s zeroed in on its food, the Kingfisher will swiftly dive into the water with its beak opened and eyes closed and catch the fish before quickly leaving the water and returning to its perching spot where it finishes off killing its prey by striking it against a surface. This final step needs to be done in order for the Kingfisher to be able to swallow an otherwise tense and spiney fish – so clever! This food might then be brought back to the Kingfisher’s chicks, which can eat up to 18 fish in one day! While chicks are normally brought out to eat, they spend on average 25 days in their nest, which consists of a slim 60-90cm long tunnel which is expertly excavated by the breeding pair of Kingfisher’s. Unfortunately, only around half of the chicks survive after they’ve left the safety of their nest and even less survive to reach the breeding season in the following year. This is why it is so crucial that human factors do not make it any harder for these kingly Kingfisher’s to survive.
And what can we do to help protect them? Since Kingfisher’s are so reliant on clean water, one of the biggest contributions to their protection could be heavier regulation of our rivers and waterways. We need to ensure the pollution of our rivers stops now as this affects us all – from the small and majestic Kingfisher to the people who depend on clean rivers for their livelihood. We need to put pressure on our politicians to commit to protecting nature and biodiversity so species like this one do not suffer any more from climate change.