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Kingfishers are a sight to behold. The dash and verve of this cosmopolitan bird has been admired for millennia, appearing in creation myths, imperial regalia and cultural iconography, and they were once valued as highly as gold. Artists used their iridescent feathers in Tian-tsui, an iconic style of Chinese fine art, for more than 2,400 years. The magnificent temples at Angkor Wat in Cambodia owe their existence in part to the great wealth generated by the live kingfisher trade from the Indochina Peninsula. As a muse, kingfishers have influenced philosophers, playwrights and artists, from the Roman poet Ovid to Carl Jung, Charles Darwin and others, while more recently bio-mimicry engineers have turned to kingfishers for inspiration.
This beautifully illustrated book delves into the origins and diversity of the more than 120 species of kingfishers, from the burly kookaburras to the diminutive birds that daringly pluck spiders off webs, defining their characteristics, their differences, their lifestyles and their cultural significance around the world.
Ildiko Szabo is Collections Curator of the Cowan Tetrapod Collection at the University of British Columbia Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Vancouver She is the co-author of British Columbia Pelagic Marine Copepoda: An Identification Manual and Annotated Bibliography (1982).