If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know that I’m no fan of the pet trade, especially those trafficking in birds. What can I say? I just can’t stand to see a wild thing caged. But despite my disdain, I found myself in a Petco store yesterday. The reason I was forced to shop in a pet store was my employer’s holiday gift exchange. I’m no fan of these forced displays of camaraderie either. Somehow, swapping gift certificates over lousy pizza feels less than merry. Nonetheless, it’s not my place to judge what other people like. I drew the name of someone who wants a credit at Petco so that’s what she’s getting.

So there I am, waiting in line in a pet super store, breathing in the nauseating stink of cat food and groomed dogs. Pictures of animals are, of course, everywhere, a parade of kitties, bunnies, puppies, and parrots. One banner, however, caught my eye. Not only was this particular piece of creative huge and colorful, but it was also mounted right in front of me and the poor suckers queuing patiently to buy stocking stuffers for the animals in their lives. Yet it wasn’t the size or the color of the banner that made it blogworthy. What stood out was that, amidst the pictures of fluffy domesticated critters was inserted incongruously a wild bird. Some wild birds are, of course, trapped and sold as pets around the world. But this bird was a kingfisher, a Malachite Kingfisher if I don’t miss my guess!

Kingfishers are dazzling, courageous birds found in just about every corner of the globe not covered in ice. The ninety or so members of the family Alcedinidae are named for the supremacy of their hunting prowess. These birds just love to fish. They’re not above trolling for crustaceans or hawking for insects either. What they don’t do is eat seeds, fruit, or anything else that might get dished up to a pet bird. Kingfishers have no qualities that might recommend them to life in a cage;  they are not cuddly or tame. Kingfishers are capital “W” Wild. I cannot believe that anyone keeps these birds as pets.

I’m sure that the inclusion of the kingfisher was simply an error on the part of whoever created the commercial artwork. The brilliance of the bird’s blue plumage and red beak makes it a transfixing model. But this bird is not much of a pet, or is it? Has anyone out there caged a kingfisher. Kept a kookaburra? Has Petco bred a meek Malachite for the holiday season? If anyone has a tale of a tame kingfisher, I’d love to hear it.

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.