Last Updated: September 14, 2023
Kingfishers are a diverse group of birds belonging to the family Alcedinidae. There are over 90 recognized species of kingfishers distributed worldwide. These magnificent creatures are mostly distributed in Australia and the Old World (Asia, Africa, and Europe).
They are known for their vibrant plumage, sharp beaks, and remarkable fishing skills. Here are some notable types of kingfishers.
- 1) Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
- 2) Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus)
- 3) Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana)
- 4) Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
- 5) Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
- 6) Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
- 7) Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata)
- 8) Forest Kingfishers
- 9) Other kingfishers
- Frequently Asked Questions
1) Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
The Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris) is a species of kingfisher family found in various parts of the world, including Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. It is a medium-sized bird known for its striking appearance.
The Collared Kingfisher has a vibrant blue color on its upperparts, including its wings and back. It comes with a unique white collar. The head and bill of the bird are relatively large compared to its body size.
Its underparts are white, and it has a distinct white collar-like band across its neck, which gives it its name.
These kingfishers are commonly found near water bodies such as mangroves, estuaries, coastal areas, and even inland lakes and rivers. They perch on branches, poles, or wires, patiently scanning the surroundings for prey.
Like other kingfishers, the Collared Kingfisher is an excellent fisher. It dives swiftly from its perch into the water to catch fish, crustaceans, and other aquatic prey. However, it is not solely reliant on fish and can also feed on insects, small reptiles, and even small birds.
The species has a wide range and is known by various names in different regions. For example, in Australia, it is often called the Mangrove Kingfisher or the White-collared Kingfisher. Its calls are typically a series of loud, high-pitched whistles.
Overall, the Collared Kingfisher is admired for its vibrant plumage and its skillful hunting techniques. It is a beautiful bird that adds color and vitality to the ecosystems it inhabits.
2) Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus)
The Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) is a species of kingfisher found in various regions, including Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. It is a medium-sized bird with distinctive features and behaviors.
The Sacred Kingfisher has a beautiful blue back, ranging from deep blue to turquoise, which is contrasted by its white underparts. It has a rusty-colored head and a black bill. The male and female birds have similar plumage, but the female may have additional reddish markings on its underparts.
These kingfishers inhabit diverse habitats, including woodlands, forests, mangroves, coastal areas, and even urban parks and gardens. They are often found perched on branches, wires, or other elevated positions, from where they hunt for prey.
As skilled hunters, Sacred Kingfishers have a keen eye for spotting prey. Their diet mainly consists of small animals, such as insects, lizards, small fish, and even small birds.
They have a distinctive hunting behavior where they perch patiently and then dive swiftly into the water or swoop down onto the ground to catch their prey.
In addition to their hunting prowess, Sacred Kingfishers are known for their loud and distinctive calls. Their calls are a series of piercing and rapid "kek-kek-kek" or "kek-kek-kek-kek" sounds, which can be heard during their breeding season and territorial displays.
Breeding pairs of Sacred Kingfishers often dig burrows in sandy banks or termite mounds for nesting. They lay a clutch of eggs, usually between 3 to 6, and both parents take part in incubation and caring for the chicks.
The Sacred Kingfisher holds cultural significance in some indigenous cultures, hence its name. It is admired for its striking appearance and its presence brings a touch of elegance and charm to the landscapes it inhabits.
3) Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana)
The Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana) is primarily found in Central, South, and North America. It is a small bird known for its vibrant green plumage and its association with aquatic habitats.
The Green Kingfisher has a rich green color on its upperparts, including its wings and back, which helps it blend into the foliage near water bodies. Its underparts are whitish, and it has a short tail and a relatively large head with a long, sturdy bill.
These kingfishers are commonly found near rivers, streams, swamps, and other freshwater habitats, although they may occasionally inhabit brackish or coastal areas. They often perch on branches or rocks near the water, patiently waiting for prey to come within striking distance.
Like other kingfishers, the Green Kingfisher is an adept fisher. It dives into the water with remarkable speed and accuracy to catch small fish, aquatic invertebrates, and even small amphibians. It typically hunts by hovering above the water before plunging into it to seize its prey.
Apart from its piscivorous diet, the Green Kingfisher may also feed on insects, crustaceans, and other small aquatic creatures.
It has a sharp, chattering call that is often heard near its habitat.
During the breeding season, which varies across its range, the Green Kingfisher constructs a burrow in a riverbank or a similar site. The female lays a clutch of eggs, usually between 3 and 6; plus, both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.
The Green Kingfisher is admired for its striking coloration and its ability to thrive in diverse aquatic environments. Its presence adds a touch of beauty and liveliness to the habitats it inhabits.
4) Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
The Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) is a beautiful kingfisher species that’s known for its distinct black and white plumage and its remarkable fishing abilities. It is widely distributed across parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
The Pied Kingfisher is a medium-sized bird with a stocky build. Pied Kingfisher has a black and white coloration, with the upperparts, head, and breast being black, while the underparts are white. It has a crest on its head and a long, pointed black bill.
These kingfishers are typically found near various freshwater habitats, including rivers, lakes, ponds, and coastal areas. They are skilled hunters and have unique hunting techniques. Instead of diving from a perch like many other kingfisher species. Pied Kingfishers hover in mid-air, using their keen eyesight to spot fish swimming beneath the water's surface.
Once they spot their prey, they plunge straight into the water, often completely submerging themselves, to catch the fish with their sharp beak.
Pied Kingfishers primarily feed on small fish, but they are also known to eat aquatic insects, crustaceans, and amphibians.
After catching a fish, they return to a perch, where they may beat the prey against the branch to stun or kill it before swallowing it whole.
5) Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
The Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is a North American kingfisher species. It is a medium-sized bird known for its unique appearance and distinctive fishing behavior.
The Belted Kingfisher has a stocky build with a large head and a long, thick bill. It displays sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females have slightly different plumage.
Males have a blue-gray coloration on their upperparts, a white belly, and a broad, bluish-gray band across their chest, resembling a belt. Females, on the other hand, have a rusty-colored band on their belly in addition to the blue-gray and white plumage.
These kingfishers are commonly found near bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, streams, and coastlines. They perch on branches, posts, or other elevated spots, scanning the water for prey and building kingfishers’ nests.
Belted Kingfishers are skilled divers and have excellent fishing abilities. Like some kingfishers employ a unique hunting strategy where they hover in the air above the water. They then rapidly dive headfirst into the water to catch fish with their sharp, pointed bills.
These can dive from considerable heights and plunge beneath the water's surface to grab their prey.
The Belted kingfishers have a rattling call that is often heard near their habitat. Their call is a loud, harsh, and repetitive series of notes, resembling a mechanical rattle.
Belted Kingfishers excavate tunnels in sandy or earthy banks as their nesting sites. The female lays a clutch of eggs, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.
With their distinctive appearance, fishing prowess, and unique calls, Belted Kingfishers are fascinating birds that bring character and excitement to the waterways they inhabit in North America
6) Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
The Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a small, colorful bird known for its vibrant plumage and exceptional fishing abilities. It is widely distributed across Europe, Asia, and North Africa.
The Common Kingfisher has a striking appearance with a combination of bright colors. Its upperparts, including the back and wings, display a vivid electric blue color, while the underparts are predominantly orange. It has a short tail, a large head, and a long, sharp bill.
These kingfishers are typically found near freshwater habitats such as rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, although they can also be seen near coastal areas. They require clear water with an abundant fish population to thrive.
Once they spot their prey, they swiftly dive headfirst into the water, using their sharp bill to catch fish, aquatic insects, and other small aquatic creatures.
They are skilled at accurately judging the position of their prey, even when it's hidden from view underwater.
After capturing their prey, Common Kingfishers return to their perch to swallow it whole. They have a specialized digestive system that allows them to regurgitate indigestible remains, such as fish bones and scales, in the form of pellets.
Common Kingfishers have a distinctive call, which is a sharp, high-pitched "chee-chee-chee" sound. They are also known for their short, rapid flights over the water, accompanied by flashes of bright colors.
7) Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata)
The Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) is a species of large kingfisher bird found in the Americas. The Ringed Kingfisher is a distinctive and striking bird with a large head, a shaggy crest, and a long, heavy bill. It has a white collar or "ring" around its neck, which gives it its name. They are highly territorial birds known for building a unique kingfishers nest.
The upperparts are predominantly bluish-gray, while the underparts are white. The female Ringed Kingfisher has an additional rufous or chestnut-colored belly and lower breast feathers.
Ringed Kingfishers are relatively large kingfishers, measuring about 15.5 inches in length. They have a wingspan of approximately 63 to 68 centimeters (25 to 27 inches).
8) Forest Kingfishers
It refers to multiple species of kingfishers that are found in forested habitats. Here are a few notable kingfishers:
Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)
The Blue-winged Kookaburra has a predominantly white head and underparts, with a blue upper wing and a large, stout bill.
Shining Flycatcher (Myiagra alecto)
Although not strictly a kingfisher, the Shining Flycatcher is often referred to as a "forest kingfisher" due to its similar appearance.
9) Other kingfishers
The Giant Kingfisher is known for its large size and powerful build. The Giant Kingfisher is one of the largest kingfishers in the world.
African Dwarf Kingfisher
The African Dwarf Kingfisher is one of the smallest kingfishers. Its length only extends up to 3.9 inches and weighs 9-12 grams.
On the other hand, the banded kingfisher is found in parts of Southeast Asia. The banded kingfisher has a unique and striking appearance with its bright blue upperparts, including the head, wings, and tail.
The brown-winged kingfisher, also known by its scientific name Pelargopsis amauroptera, is a species of kingfisher bird found in parts of Southeast Asia. Last but not least, the Red-backed kingfisher occupies the tropical coral atolls.
These are just a few examples of the many species of kingfishers that exist around the world. Each forest species has its own unique characteristics and adaptations that allow them to thrive in various habitats. These brightly colored birds are known for catching fish and they occupy Central America, North Africa, and even tropical South America among other parts of the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, kookaburras and kingfishers are indeed related as they both belong to the same family of birds known as Alcedinidae. Kookaburras like the laughing kookaburra is a type of kingfisher that is native to Australia.
Why do kingfishers have long beaks?
Kingfishers have long beaks primarily because of their feeding habits and specialized hunting techniques. The long beak is an adaptation that allows them to catch and eat fish.
What special abilities do kingfishers have?
Kingfishers have exceptional eyesight and auditory perception, which is crucial for locating and targeting their prey. Kingfishers are renowned for their diving and fishing abilities.