ARTISTS AND BIRDS
by Marilyn and Keith Davis


"Belly Flops and Kingfishers"

Belted Kingfisher

belted kingfisher        Do you remember your first belly-flop? My Honey says his first was at Paw Tempe Hot Springs in Hurricane, and it was a painful sensation of acute belly discomfort that came with a mouthful of yucky sulfur water.

        All of us could learn to dive correctly if we were built like . . . and took diving lessons from the Kingfishers. The Kingfisher’s head and bill is the perfect size and shape to break the surface of water with the least amount of shock. Japanese engineers, after studying the way the kingfisher’s dive breaks the water surface, found valuable information for solving the problem of their extremely noisy, high speed bullet trains. When the high speed bullet trains go through tunnels, they compress the air in front of the train and create a huge sonic boom as the train exits the tunnel. This was extremely discomforting for all who lived near the tunnels. By shaping the front of the train to mimic a Kingfisher’s head, there was no sonic boom, because the air flowed around the sides rather than being compressed in front of the train engine. Japanese high speed trains have been modified, eliminating the sonic boom thanks to the Kingfisher.

        When you hear the question asked - "Why should we care about birds" - the answer is - "The more we study birds, the more we find out how little mankind knows about the physics of the air and the rules of flying." Birds have been flying for millions of years and people less than a hundred. The study of birds has changed the aerodynamic shape of airplanes. Our fighter planes now look like swallows. Our passenger planes now make their flights smoother and quieter with wings designed by the Owl.

        The Belted Kingfisher of southern Utah makes a living by catching small minnows and fish. We too have seen the ‘Kingfisher Dive’, and so can you. Go to where there is a tall tree with branches stretching out over water, or a wire running across the water high up in the air, and look for a bird with a large head, stocky body, and short tail. It’s a Kingfisher. If you are lucky, you can watch the bird plummet straight down into a pool of water, even shallow water, and come up with a minnow. The dive is so clean there is hardly a splash going in, snatching the prey, and zooming back out with the prize catch. That’s where he gets the name of Kingfisher. There are no belly flops for Kingfishers. He is King of the fishing birds.

        Learn about birds around you. Make being outdoors special. Our next Red Cliffs Audubon General Meeting will be Wednesday, October 10, 7:00 p.m. at the Tonaquint Nature Center. Steve Meismer, Virgin River Project Director is our next speaker. Come early and check out the Tonaquint Pond for migrating birds. The following Saturday is the Field Trip to Quail Creek Reservoir and Washington Fields. Meet at BLM at 8:00 a.m. For more information about birds or Red Cliffs Audubon activities call 435 673-0996 or visit our home page.

        If you wish to read more of the Artists and Birds articles, they are listed below.

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