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This Painting Was Inspired by Filming Kingfishers Underground

This painting of a kingfisher is the result of a secret study of these brilliant birds inside their dark underground nest.

kingfisher artwork
Kingfisher in Nest | Original Acrylic Painting | Now Sold

I built a bespoke nest chamber and installed hidden cameras inside so that I could watch what happens when these brightly-coloured birds disappear underground to bring up their young in the dark.

Filming Kingfishers Underground

And I discovered an extraordinary world under there. For a start, who knew that the chicks looked like aliens? Scroll down to watch my video filmed inside the nest and turn the sound on to hear the strange buzzing noises they make! These birds don’t get their feathers until a week before the fledge – I suspect this is to keep them clean as the nest gets pretty mucky – and when these eventually grow through they look like steel pins, only becoming the brilliant blue plumage that we all recognise much later.

Film Reveals How Kingfishers Cope In Pitch Black Nests

It is also so dark in the nest that the adult birds cannot find their chicks’ beaks when they deliver a fish! Luckily the chicks have tiny spots of luminous white on their cheeks to help locate their gaping beaks- but even so it can be difficult lining up – watch how a fish wobbles about in the effort. 

Filming Kingfisher Brooding Inspires Painting

Notice too how helpless these chicks are. They are utterly dependent on the adults to keep them warm and when the grown-up birds are out hunting, the chicks have to lean on one another for support. It was this vulnerability that inspired my latest painting. I chose to feature the adult male as he brooded the chicks and painted directly from a photograph. Watch the composition come together in the film.

Click on the image below to watch the footage underground and to see the painting take shape:

Kingfisher Art

For more paintings inspired by this project follow the link below.

My Collection of Kingfisher Paintings

Read More: 

My underground studies became the subject of a BBC Springwatch episode. Read more about it here: 

The Story Behind my TV Kingfisher Film


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