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Kingfisher crowned bird of the year

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Kingfisher crowned bird of the year
Photo: DPA
10:46 CEST+02:00
The kingfisher has been crowned bird of the year 2009 in Germany, with conservationists hoping the added attention this brings may results in increased protection of its dwindling habitat.

Germany's nature protection alliance, NABU, gave the ‘flying jewels' the honour more than 30 years ago, and says the dangers the birds faced then have not gone away.

Kingfishers need clean water, undeveloped ponds or lakes and natural river banks to flourish – all of which are in short supply in over developed western Europe.

Helmut Opitz, NABU vice president, said, “These habitats are still rarities in Germany, despite some progress in protection.”

There are thought to be between 5,600 and 8,000 breeding pairs in the country. This is after a sharp down-turn in numbers during the 1970s, due to water pollution and widespread development of rivers which robbed them of suitable nesting sites.

Although conditions have improved somewhat since then, their numbers have not recovered, NABU says.

Rivers bound by concrete or stone banks offer nowhere to build nests, while weirs which block fish migration reduce the variety of life in the water. Just 10 percent of Germany's waterways are considered by conservationists to be close to their natural state.

An old French myth suggests that the kingfisher was the second bird sent by Noah to find land during the Biblical flood.

At the time the little bird was just grey, but as it tried to avoid a storm, it flew so high it came close to the sun that its stomach feathers were burned and took on their gorgeous colours.

The bird never found Noah and is bound to stay near water forever in a bid to find him again and complete its mission.

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