I want to take some photographs of Kingfishers in the United Kingdom. How do I find them, get close to them, etc?
Turns out this is actually quite difficult. Apart from the scarcity a major issue is that Kingfishers in the UK are a Schedule 1 protected species. This essentially means it's illegal to go anywhere near their nest, etc. If you can find somewhere not near a nest then great but this is going to be difficult.
You’ll need a licence if you can’t avoid disturbing birds listed in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 when they’re:
- nest building
- rearing young
You’ll need to apply for a licence to:
- disturb wild birds to survey for science, education and conservation work
- disturb wild birds for photography
You should also report your actions taken under these licences to Natural England following the guidance on the report form.
Any nest locations are closely guarded secrets or under 24 hour surveillance. I saw one thread on a photography Facebook group that basically told one person asking that "No one is going to tell you this information".
Now that said UK right of way seems to trump this. So if you're on a right of way (footpath) etc. then you can observe the birds from there. But if you set foot off the footpath then you'd be breaking the schedule one restrictions, so this is going to make it difficult to find a good location.
Also note the restriction on not disturbing the bird. This seems purposely open ended. You could argue that you're not causing a disturbance by simply photographing them. You might be on shaky ground here unless you're in a good hide, etc. as I would guess even scaring the birds would count as disturbance. But then how do you hide if you can't leave the path!
Probably your best bet to photograph a kingfisher is to visit a RSPB reserve
Other schedule one protected birds include:
- Eagle, white-tailed
- Eagle, golden
- Owl, barn