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Kingfisher mink predation last night

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Paul Deane Paul Deane | 10:56 UK time, Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Last night we had another predator attack, this time something very rarely seen, let alone filmed - a mink raiding a kingfisher nest.

The camera wasn't live on the web at the time, but the footage was recorded.

The first time we spotted the mink it was coming towards the kingfisher burrow, but it seemed to know exactly where it was going.

Mink crossing towards the nest

Mink crossing towards the nest

It climbed into the kingfisher burrow - we've enhanced this image so you can see it.

mink climbing into kingfisher hole

Mink climbing into kingfisher burrow

The mink came out of the hole and swam across the river, where it stashed the chick and returned towards the nest.

This time, dramatically, one of the kingfisher adults dive-bombed the mink several times.

mink kingfisher divebomb

The mink reached the hole and was seen leaving with a chick in its mouth. Again the parent kingfisher dive-bombed the mink.

We filmed it entering the nest four times and leaving with a chick on three occasions.

Later on, the mink was seen to be moving the previously stashed kingfisher chicks, possibly for its own young; it appears that it took six from the nest in total.

mink moving stash

Mink moving its stash of kingfisher chicks

This morning, the kingfisher parents were seen bringing fish to the nest, only to emerge still holding the fish.

We'll have the video footage of this remarkable event on the show tonight.


  • Comment number 1.

    Have you used mink rafts in the area previously? If not perhaps it would be a good idea! Ruddy non-natives!

  • Comment number 2.

    AS usual the poor native birds cop it to these indiscriminate predators. Mink, cats and their own natural predators all on the rise like sparrowhawks and the like, all being 'humanely' protected at the expense of the poor defenceless natural bird populations. And the RSPB put the reduced number of native birds down to farming changes and the like, rubbish. You cannot keep adding to the predator population whether it be the over protected native raptors(refering to bird eating species here), feral and pet cats and now these terrible wild and spreading foreign predators with no natural predators of their own. Without a legal plan of number reduction or legislation of pets, licensing, micro-chipping whatever needs to be done and a government plan to eradicate the mink population once and for all. But no then you will get the softly soft approach all animals need protection from something else or the RSPCA saying you can't kill the mink etc. Either you want to protect the natural, native bird species or you don't, you cannot have it both ways. I have many wild birds each year nest and rear their young in my garden, and each year if they manage to fledge, if they have not been got at in the nest by the increasing numbers of magpies or crows then the local cats get them and if not the local sparrowhawks have a field day killing and feeding the poor little things one after another to their own young as they sit in the garden waiting to be fed by their parents, the initial joy at seeing the beautiful wild birds in your garden each year becomes a wrench having to see them destroyed each year by these ever increasing numbers of predators.

  • Comment number 3.

    I watched (and photographed https://www.flickr.com/photos/pmarfell/5777481405/in/set-72157626370160992/%29 this happen to 2 Moorhen chicks at Denso Marston Nature Reserve in Baildon. It caught 1 and put it on the river bank, it then caught another and carried it 200m up river to what I assume was its young. It then ran all the way back to get the first one. Clever. There are also Kingfishers in the same area. I hope the mink does not find their nest.

  • Comment number 4.

    Many mink were released by animal rights protesters, I live on Romney Marsh and they were released here as well. In my previous home I had a dyke at the bottom of the garden and mink used to take the young moorhens and ducklings.
    I feed the wild birds in my garden, but am beginning to wonder if I am doing them more harm than good with the local cats and the sparrowhawks.

  • Comment number 5.

    Do you include owls in your comment about raptors? A healthy balance of predator/prey is what should be aimed for, not wiping out a single species eg magpie or crow because they predate 'your' birds.
    " local sparrowhawks have a field day killing and feeding the poor little things one after another to their own young " which they do for survival of their species not because they get their kicks out of it. Get rid of Mink - okay fair enough they are an introduced species, but will you also get rid of the rabbit population too as they're not native to the UK? And the raptors who now feed on rabbits will turn to the native bird population. (am I wrong but I thought that sparrowhawks are ALSO a native uk species? or are we just wiping out the ones you don't like?)

    I had a breeding pair of blackbirds who fledged a lot of chicks, despite also having many corvids around, then a pair of the most beautiful bullfinches came to check out the area too, fantastic I thought... right up til the through-the-fence neighbour attacked the bushes and cut them down and back so far that there was no protection for the birds to nest so they've gone elsewhere.

    The issue is rather more complex than wiping out ' predators all on the rise like sparrowhawks and the like ' as the eco-balance will be even less balance than it is.

    Remember little birds like tits, nuthatches, wagtails have larger, multiple broods while most raptors only have one clutch and maybe only two or three eggs otherwise there wouldn't be a viable food source for them. Even humans were once nomadic and followed the herds migration for hunting.

  • Comment number 6.

    flightpath10 @post #2 you demonstrate the illogical nature of your argument in your own statement. If as you say "I have many wild birds each year nest and rear their young in my garden" despite "having to see them destroyed each year by these ever increasing numbers of predators" where are the birds which nest each year coming from. You actually appear to have proved that even extensive predation has little or no effect on the numbers nesting each year.

    It is and always has been true that the availability of suitable habitat is the major factor in determining the overall numbers of nesting birds. There may of course be some circumstances in which numbers of particular threatened species of both birds and mammals or numbers in a particular locality are affected (although the latter doesn't seem to apply in your case) but on the whole predation is of little or no consequence.

  • Comment number 7.

    You know certain comments make me laugh.

    Why everything on this planet of ours has to eat something to live.

    And this includes us.

    So come on nature is a wonderful thing if you step back and look at it from a distance.

    Why what and how does nature tries to control us???

    If you can answer this you are beginning to get somewhere.

    Look at the animal kingdom and look at us humans without rose tinted specs.

  • Comment number 8.

    I have been filming a kingfisher nest in Sussex, and had a very similar thing happen. However, the mink in this instance actually buried down from the top of the bank into the nest, and completely cleared it out. This was about 3 weeks ago so hopefully the adult birds will make a new nest. Bring in an otter - they'll send the mink packing!

  • Comment number 9.

    I see the problem here. You lot are really overcomplicating this, it's really very simple.

    The mink has clearly been watching Springwatch, and was sat happily at home while Chris, Martin and Michaela told her exactly where to get dinner from. If there is an issue here, it is obviously that cruel BBC presenters are being too loose with their lips, and should be more careful before divulging sensitive information such as the home addresses of the show's stars. This vulgar practice cannot go on. They've even got a map to show the predators the exact location of a nest. Crows, magpies, mink, stoats, cats and foxes in the local area must be rubbing their paws/claws in glee. They can even watch the webcams to see just when the chicks are at their plumpest before they strike. It's disgusting!

    (A little light hearted banter to distract away from this unfortunate "debate" that used to go on quite fiercely on the message boards, unfortunately including some pretty awful arguments from people who clearly don't understand the most basic principles of conservation or ecology. In the end whether or not you believe they should be removed from the ecosystem, it's not the mink's fault. It's CP, MHG and MS's faults for jinxing the nest last night! =D

  • Comment number 10.

    Oh this did make me sad. Just goes to show how destructive some invasive species can be.

  • Comment number 11.

    Is there a possibility that the positioning of remote cameras in close proximity to the nests featured on Springwatch this year is betraying their position to predators? The various birds go to enormous lengths to disguise their retreats and then someone goes and plonks a whacking great tripod and rotating bit of tech next to it. Can't be helping surely?

  • Comment number 12.

    I was under the impression it was a requirement that landownwers are required to control mink and kill them when possible. There is no doubt thet want eliminating. .

  • Comment number 13.

    NOW you see why the only good mink is in a coat .......... and THE really annoying thing about these destructive vicious weasels , is that they were released into the wild to cause this carnage by idiotic so-called animal rights activists ........ really well done ........ IDIOTS !!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Have just listened to Chris Packham's platitudes about the perishing mink. It ought to be shot or trapped now they know where it is. None of this - all creatures nonsense. It is alien vermin. Why does the BBC never allow anyone to tell it how it is regarding the wanton act of so-called animal rights idiots who turned loose thousands of mink - with great effect on native wildlife!

  • Comment number 15.

    such a shame its been a bad week really you must admit maybe you should consider setting your cameras up on a shooting estate where at least pests like the mink etc are controlled. we have 2 king fisher nests on the river here both looking like they will be succesfull the perants constantly carrying fish back and forth all day

  • Comment number 16.

    Totally agree with the comments from tomfer. I've always had high regard for Chris P but the comments he made about minks....comparing them with 'native' otters....this alien animal should be eradicated asap and that goes for the one just shown!!!!!

  • Comment number 17.


  • Comment number 18.

    This doesn't justify the actions of animals rights activists but our understanding now is that mink were already firmly established in the UK by the 30's and 40's after escaping from fur farms.

  • Comment number 19.

    As an introduced predator , mink should not be a celebrated creature on Springwatch ---it must be caught and exterminated , preferably nationwide ; Our native fauna has enough obstacles to overcome as it is -- we cannot sit back and watch their destruction , we must be more pro-active in protecting them.

  • Comment number 20.

    Whenever you look out of your window almost anywhere in the UK, what you see is pretty much entirely man-made, whether it's urban environment, farmland, moorland, even woodland. Before we arrived, most of Britain was covered in ancient woodland and looked very different to how it looks now. Surely, by far the greatest damage has been caused by us. Mink are just doing what mink do - nature gave them their instincts for survival; we are the ones who messed with it. Incidentally, rabbits are not native to Britain either - they were brought here by the Normans. So do we make a 'moral' judgement and just control the predators but not the cuddly animals? I think we should be more concerned with our own destructive behaviour. Yes, we have created an imbalance, but we were doing that long before mink came along!

  • Comment number 21.

    I think the RSPB wardens need to get it touch with the Game and Wildlife Concervation Trust to get some much needed training in the use of Anti Mink Rafts. We cannot afford for our nature reserves to allow the birds under their care to be pedated by non natives. Yes I am an RSPB Member and as such I call on their management team to pull their fingers out!!!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Having seen the mink predation footage, my immediate thoughts were "where is a crack shot when you need one!" A few years ago in Halifax, West Yorkshire, some animal rights activists released mink from a mink farm. I understand their point but they were recklessly short-sighted and caused huge damage to our wildlife by their actions. I hope they all saw the result this introduced species is doing to our British wildlife. I hope this highlights the problem and instigates action to rectify as best as can be done in the circumstances.

  • Comment number 23.

    I've read numerous accounts of this happening and seen it a couple of times on my local river in the midlands, (although predation has occurred through the burrow being dug out from above). North American Mink have unfortunately found British rivers very much to their liking, they are prolific breeders and will quickly re-colonise vacant territories. Keeping them out requires a huge commitment of time and effort in running an ongoing raft and trapping program. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be the resource, or the will to do this on a large scale, and so trapping programs are restricted to fishing syndicates protecting their assets, and local wildlife organisations, mainly running small scale programs in an attempt to protect niche habitats for species such as water voles. For the vast majority of British waterways, the native wildlife is having to fend for itself.

  • Comment number 24.

    It was devastating to watch the carnage caused by the mink.They should be destroyed as vermin before they rob our rivers of the young of waterbirds.On a river I often visit young ducklings have been predated by mink and where there used to be sightings of kingfishers this is now rare.These birds put so much effort into raising their young.Something has to be done to eliminate these foreigners.Nature-lover.

  • Comment number 25.

    I want to take issue with the comment on the show about Otters predating as well. The problem with Mink compared to Otters is that a Kingfisher or a Water Vole has a burrow down which it is safe from Otters. Mink - as shown on the programme - can get down the burrow and wipe out it's contents very quickly. Otters are part of the natural balance but Mink are not.

    If a Mink gets into a Water Vole population it can wipe it out in a short space of time - that's why they're constantly watched for near where I live. It's tragic really because it isn't the Mink's fault. But they've been introduced (by Man, AGAIN) and are upsetting things.

    It's important, actually, to show people what they do. But that one, and any of it's family should now be dealt with immediately. If you ever see a Mink please report it to your local Wildlife Trust.

    Yes Rabbits aren't native and neither are Brown Hares. And I do understand the "non native" argument can be levelled at quite a few species really.

    However, they don't (mostly) cause the devastation to other species that Mink, Grey Squirrels and Signal Crayfish do.

    Controversial subject, and people will have differing views, but I firmly believe that Mink have to be removed from a site as soon as they're known about.

  • Comment number 26.

    As the coordinator of my local American Mink monitoring project (as part of a Water Vole Biodiversity Species Action Plan), i am somewhat dismayed at some of the comments on here.

    The American Mink was introduced to this country for fur farming in a time of poor biosecurity (by today's standards). Not all mink were deliberately released by animal rights activists, although many were. Most are more likely the result of escapees over the years that have bred relatively easily.

    My project has trapped and killed (with the highest of ethical standards) over 150 mink so far, and we are now at a point where numbers are very low and easily managed. The resurgence of otter numbers have helped things along as they simply will not tolerate mink setting up territory close to their own.

    But what dismays me the most, is the attitude towards the animals themselves. The American Mink is a fantastic creature, well adapted to the UK countryside, and a highly successful predator. It is clever, thorough, efficient and a great parent to its young. I take no pleasure in killing any mink, but i realise that i do it for the greater good of UK wildlife. Don't blame the mink, blame us humans.

  • Comment number 27.

    Im saddened by obviously intelligent people defending this non native predator. Wake up and smell the coffee. The mink decimates our native wildlife, killing indiscriminately. It needs to be culled. Just because its "cute and furry" shouldnt give it carte blanche to destroy our wildlife while we sit back and watch.

  • Comment number 28.

    Mink in America are controlled by Bobcat and Coyote but obviously we don’t have them here that’s why they are out of control and our top predator the Fox goes for much easier pray such as the rabbit because the mink would put up a bit of a fight and is not a push over.

  • Comment number 29.

    Ref the activities of the mink in last nights programme, I was rather bemused at the laissez-faire attitude of the presenter, referring to the mink (if I recall correctly) as just 'not being indiginous to the UK'

    I was astounded that you didnt state clearly that mink are a pest and should be regarded as vermin - made obvious by the behaviour shown.

    The only reason that they exist in the UK is by the criminal activities of the "animal rights" fanatics who released captive mink into the countryside, and you should have taken the opportunity of publicising this to attempt to discredit their actions.

    Wherever possible & practical, mink should be shot on sight or trapped & disposed of. Then we would have had several more live kingfishers which are infinitely preferable to the murderous mink.

  • Comment number 30.

    While the BBC spend vast amounts of money on cameras and associated expensive equipment to bring us this yearly nature extravaganza. They fail the very birds they are showing us, by not preventing vermin such as mink from wholesale slaughter. Mink have already, single handledly, virtually wiped out the water vole population. A few well placed mink traps and perhaps a high powered air rifle would have got rid of some of these pests. Stop your presenters from treating us like little children with their "Well mink are part of nature and they need feeding to" routine. Too much PC by far.

  • Comment number 31.

    @ post 29 Bill - you say that you were 'bemused" at the presenters attitude - too laid back for you?
    I personally am bemused of the use of 'murderous' in relation to the mink - they are NOT murderous, they are a species that is hunting for survival regardless of introduced species or not. The term 'murderous' implies that the mink has with forethought and malice attacked the kingfishers when in fact it saw an opportunity and acted upon it.

    Perhaps both the laid back shrugs of the presenters and the eradicate the b*ggers from some of the posters could be met in the middle ground - in the interest of balance? The situation needs to be managed not subject to emotional vitriolic rhetoric.

  • Comment number 32.

    MORE Spingwatch HYPOCRISY!!! Last year it showed a mink taking Moorhen eggs, they had NO hesitation in trapping the mink, they also inferred that it was dispatched! when are people going to protect native birds and mammals against alien predators..again TOTAL HYPOCRISY!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Lately Springwatch has been talking about cat predation, and they have been encouraging people to keep there cats indoors through the night. A appriciate that mosst cats will catch birds and not eat them, they will just kill them for fun, but minks are like cats. Because they are non native animals they should be controlled. I am not saying there should be a nation wide cull, but they have had a dramatic effect on the numbers of ground-nesting birds like warblers and snipes. The fact that they have thwarted the kingfishers attempt at a family is slightly infureating, but not as infuriating as cats doing the same thing.

  • Comment number 34.

    I take it that those who wish to eradicate non native species such as the Mink and Grey Squirrel would also like to see all non native game birds eradicated as well and a stop to the release of millions of non native game birds into our countryside each year.

  • Comment number 35.

    Amazing story...have a look at my abstract of a kingfisher feeding - makes a change from photos....On the Flickr page or my facebbok and website www.cgallagherart.co.uk

  • Comment number 36.

    Domestic cats are a non-native species too. :) Introduced, like cattle, rabbits, pheasant, mink, grey squirrels, coypu, sika and muntjac deer and numerous other species, by humans, deliberately, because we wanted to eat them, use their skins or labour or pest control properties, hunt them for sport or enjoy their beauty. We've also accidentally introduced a lot of other creatures. And we have deliberately and accidentally exterminated a lot of native species, some of which but not all we are now trying expensively to reintroduce. Not many people, I suspect, would support the reintroduction of bear to southern England - even wild boar have opponents as well as advocates.

    Since mink are such a threat to water voles and other native species, and have no native predators,they need to be controlled - in this country. And the same is even more true of certain plants that we have misguidedly allowed to get a stranglehold. But our country would be a very much poorer place without our once foreign plant introductions.

    Labelling a creature "vermin" is all about the attitude of the labeller, not about the creature itself. All the mink's close native relatives - otters, pine martens, weasels, stoats - would have been called vermin 150 years ago, and shot, trapped or hunted. Do "vermin" and "ermine" come from the same root? The mink at the kingfisher's nest, the weasel at the sedgewarbler's, the kingfisher catching minnows, the sedge warbler catching insects are doing exactly the same thing, what comes naturally, what they have evolved to do and need to do if they are to survive. So is the cat, if it's feral. And if it's got an owner to feed and care for it, it is nonetheless still only following its instinct when it hunts, the instinct that has helped its kind to flourish for as long as cats have existed.

    Watching individual wild animals closely, we invest a lot of emotion in them, just as we do in our domestic pets, and feel pity and sorrow when they die, and joy when they successfully survive. But to feel animosity towards a predator makes no more sense than to feel animosity towards the storm that killed the lapwing chicks. Should we blame Runty's siblings for grabbing more food than they needed and trampling him underfoot? He'd have done the same if he'd been the larger one. What about all the beautiful butterflies that will never exist because at the caterpillar stage they disappeared down a nestling's gullet? Should we feel disgust at the peregrine family's incestuous relationships?

  • Comment number 37.

    It's a sad sight to see but common where no mink control is carried out. It's a shame that more focus wasn't given to the impact of non-native species, especially as it was mentioned last year.
    There is a big project going on in north east Scotland at the moment called the Scottish Mink Initiative (www.scottishmink.org.uk) which is looking for volunteers to monitor mink rafts. There are also lots of locally run projects throughout the UK focusing on tackling non-native species in general which am sure would want some help if people wanted to get involved and protect their local wildlife!

  • Comment number 38.

    I am from NC (US) and I am so sorry to hear that idiots had released mink. Bad enought that mink escape farms, but for someone to deliberately let them loose is like letting loose a bunch of feral cats, brown tree snakes and Norway rats on the Galapagos Islands. They're competing w/ your native weasel, which is not good. N. American kingfishers can deal with mink, because they've both evolved together, and I think our k-fishers make deeper burrows here in N. America. Alas, raccoons, gray squirrels (and, alas, my fave, the beaver) are all bad news for the UK. Trap 'em and kill 'em as humanely as best you can (along w/ cats, Norway rats and wild boars). I contribute to the UK Humane Society, by the way; not just here in the U.S. (I'm not sure what a mink raft is, but do what you need to do to keep them out of bird and water vole burrows, because they're smart as Norway rats if not, smarter.)

  • Comment number 39.

    Monday 29th April, Today I trapped a mink, Female about 2ft long I have photographed the same. I live in North West Wales, Gwynedd. It was caught in a tidal stream running alongside the garden. I will keep the trap out in case any young appear. We keep chickens, and am very concerned about this. Will post any further developments.


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