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Last updated date: 23rd Apr 2024
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What is a Kingfisher Bird?

The Alcedinidae, kingfisher scientific name, is a family of brightly coloured small to medium-sized birds belongs to the order Coraciiformes. They have a worldwide distribution, with the majority of species found in Africa, Asia, and Oceania's tropical regions. There are 114 species in the family, which is divided into three subfamilies and 19 genera. Large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails are all features of kingfishers. The plumage of most species is bright, with only minor variations between the sexes. The majority of species are present only in forests and have a tropical distribution. They eat a large variety of prey, which they normally catch by swooping down from a perch. Although most people associate kingfishers with rivers and fish, many species live on land and feed on small invertebrates. They build their nests in cavities, generally tunnels built into natural or man-made banks in the earth, like other members of their order. Some kingfishers build their nests in termite nests in the trees. A few animals, mostly insular forms, are on the verge of extinction. The common kingfisher is commonly referred to as a "kingfisher" in the United Kingdom.


How Do These Birds Look?

In general, all kingfishers are medium-sized birds with long, pointed bills that aid in the capture of fish and other prey. The African dwarf kingfisher (Ispidina lecontei) is the smallest species, measuring about 3.9 in (10 cm) long and weighing 0.32-0.42 oz (9-12 g). The African kingfisher (Megacaeryle maxima) is the highest, weighing 9-15 oz (255-426 g) and measuring 17-18 in (42-46 cm), while the laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae), also known as the Australian kingfisher, is the heaviest, weighing up to 0.5 kg.


Kingfisher Information: Common Kingfishers Found in the Indian Subcontinent

White-throated Kingfisher

The white-throated kingfisher, also known as the Tree kingfisher, is the most common kingfisher species in India. The tree kingfisher is a city dweller who is often seen perched on wires or trees and is noted for its noisy calls.


Common Kingfisher

Though not very common, the common kingfisher, also known as the River Kingfisher, can be found in India's river forests and is a significant ecosystem member. The male has blue upper parts and the female has green. The small kingfisher feeds on fish.


Pied Kingfisher

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The black and white kingfisher, also known as the water kingfisher, is best known for circling over clear lakes and rivers before diving for fish. The diving kingfisher feeds primarily on fish, and there are currently five subspecies identified.


Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

The Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher is the most beautiful kingfisher bird on the Indian subcontinent. It is native to much of India's coast and only breeds during the southwest monsoon season in June. The rainbow-coloured kingfisher, also known as the Jewel of the Konkan by bird watchers, is also known as ODK.


Collared Kingfisher

The Collared Kingfisher, also known as the Mangrove Kingfisher, is a medium-sized kingfisher that is most commonly found in India's coastal areas. The remaining subspecies can be found on the coasts of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


Blue-eared Kingfisher

The Blue Eared Kingfisher is a small kingfisher found in Asia, from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. The small kingfisher, found in more open environments and almost identical to the common kingfisher except for the blue ear coverts, is almost identical to the common kingfisher.


Ruddy Kingfisher

The Ruddy Kingfisher can be found in forested areas, jungles, and rainforests from India to Southeast Asia. The ruddy kingfisher, like all other kingfishers found in India, feeds on fish, large insects, and amphibians.


Crested Kingfisher

The Crested Kingfisher is a big kingfisher that can be found from the Indian Subcontinent's jungles to Japan's coast. This mountain bird can be found in India's Himalayas and mountain foothills.


Blyth's Kingfisher 

The Blyth's Kingfisher is a large kingfisher that can be found from Nepal to Vietnam, often near small ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams.


Brown-winged Kingfisher 

In India, the brown-winged kingfisher is a beautiful tree kingfisher species. It is most commonly found in West Bengal's Sundarbans mangrove forests.


Stork-billed Kingfisher

The stork-billed kingfisher is another large tree kingfisher that can be found in a number of habitats, including near water, coastal areas, and rivers. The stork-billed kingfisher can be found in most Indian states, from Kerala to West Bengal.


Black-capped Kingfisher

The migratory black-capped kingfisher is primarily found in West Bengal's coastal and mangrove habitats. One of the best places in India to see five separate species of kingfisher birds is the Sundarban mangrove forest.


About Kingfisher Bird Habitat

With so many genera, kingfishers have a cosmopolitan – or worldwide – distribution, with species found in almost every temperate and tropical area on the planet. However, the Americas have a limited number of species, with the majority of them being uncommon or confined to very small areas. Only the common and belted kingfishers are seen regularly.


The majority of kingfisher species can be found in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. The common kingfisher, which can be found in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and the Solomon Islands, is one example of a species with a wide range. Others, like the Kofiau paradise kingfisher (Tanysiptera ellioti), which lives on an island near New Guinea, are endemic to small areas or even a single island.


Within their ranges, kingfishers can be found in a variety of habitats. Despite their names and reputations as exclusively fish-eaters, only about half of all species live in rivers and lakes, with some species surviving in Australia's driest deserts and others residing high in the mountains. Many people live in woods or by small streams. Some species have been observed to thrive in human-created environments such as agricultural zones and city parks.


Human population growth, on the other hand, poses a direct challenge to the survival of other animals and their habitats.


Kingfisher Bird information about Feeding

Slow-moving, shallow rivers or streams with abundant small fish are ideal habitat for kingfishers.


Fast-moving streams and contaminated waters do not have enough available fish to support kingfishers, so they do not exist. Fishing perches can be found on branches overhanging shallows.


Kingfishers eat primarily fish, especially minnows and sticklebacks, but they also eat aquatic insects, freshwater shrimp, and tadpoles. They prefer to eat fish with a length of 23 mm but will eat anything up to 80 mm.


A strong perch overlooking a clear, shallow pool of water is perfect for fishing. The bird dives once it has found suitable prey and measured its depth. Its beak opens and its eyes are closed by the third eyelid when it enters the water. As it catches the fish, the bird is essentially blindfolded.


When it returns to the perch, it kills the fish by repeatedly striking it against the perch. The spines in the fins of certain birds, such as sticklebacks, can only relax after that, allowing the bird to swallow it headfirst. Every day, each bird must consume at least its own body weight in fish.


Kingfisher Reproduction

Spring is the time for kingfisher courtship. With a fish in his beak, the male will approach the female. He'll try to feed it to the female by keeping it with the fish's head facing outwards. If he doesn't succeed, he'll eat the fish himself. Before mating, he will have to repeat this feeding behaviour for a while. Burrows are dug by kingfishers in sandy riverbanks. Burrows are normally about a metre long and consist of a horizontal tunnel with a nesting chamber at the top.

The female usually lays 5 to 7 white, glossy eggs, but she can lay up to 10 eggs on rare occasions. The eggs are 1.9 centimetres wide, 2.2 centimetres long, and weigh around 4.3 grammes, with 50 per cent of the weight being a shell. For about 20 days, the male and female share the job of incubating the eggs. Both incubate during the day, but only the female kingfisher does so at night. In 19–20 days, the eggs hatch, and the young stay in the nest for another 24–25 days, occasionally longer. Young birds may come to the burrow entrance to be fed until they are large enough. In a season, two to three broods can be raised.

During the breeding season, kingfishers are often spotted hunting in the deep pools that form in river bends. The young fish that the kingfishers feed to their young are abundant in these areas. A hungry Kingfisher brood can demand more than 100 fish per day from their parents.

For young kingfishers, the early days are the riskiest. The fledgelings will make their first dives into the water to find prey about four days after leaving the nests. Many who have not learned to fish by this time, unfortunately, can become waterlogged and drown. Just about half of them make it longer than a week or two.

Just a small percentage of birds survive more than one breeding season. The oldest known kingfisher was 21 years old.

Did you know?

In the animal world, normally the male looks more attractive than its female counterpart. But when it comes to kingfisher birds, it is the opposite. A female kingfisher bird is more colourful than a male bird. 

FAQs on Kingfisher

1. Do Kingfisher Birds Migrate During Winters?

Kingfishers are a non-migratory species that prefer to remain in their breeding grounds all year if possible. However, if required for survival, they will migrate to warmer regions within their range during the winter months. These mini migrations are becoming less frequent as a result of recent warming trends, and more Kingfishers are able to remain in their breeding territories year-round.

However, kingfishers have a high mortality rate, with many birds dying during the winter. They may be forced to flee south in the farthest reaches of their territory, but only if they are unlikely to return to the same location the following year, only to be forced out again in the winter.

To feed themselves and their young, kingfishers need a large enough territory. Because of their strict hunting habits, they have restricted territory choices. They need to live somewhere where the water doesn't freeze tight because they dive for their food.

2. What is the Habitat for a Kingfisher to Survive?

To meet its nutritional requirements, a Kingfisher needs a particular environment. Its perfect habitat is wherever there is a plentiful food supply. They typically hunt from a perch near still or slow-moving water's shallows. Bullrushes, water grasses, and other vegetation provide excellent protection for small fish, and Kingfishers will search them out. In reality, a large population of Kingfishers is a symbol of a healthy environment and evidence that the water supply is teeming with small fish. 

Drainage ditches, service dams, and culverts, as well as banks where streams and small estuaries meet, are all good places to catch dinner. As long as the Kingfisher doesn't have to dive too deep to catch fish, it'll be good wherever it feeds. Kingfishers, despite their incredible diving abilities, cannot swim and must avoid very deep or choppy water. The Kingfisher returns to its perch after it has eaten something. It can repeatedly bash some types of fish against a tree to break their spines before swallowing them. Kingfishers eat their prey whole, starting with the head of the fish to smooth out the scales to keep the fish from being stuck in their mouth.

3. Does Weather Affect the Kingfisher?

Summer is a wonderful time to be a Kingfisher by the water. Winter, on the other hand, may be a real issue for many Kingfishers. The first to freeze is shallow water. Kingfishers are completely reliant on their shallows, and if they are to survive, they must find a location with winter fish stocks. As a result, in the summer and fall, Kingfishers must establish a large territory in order to ensure their survival through the winter. When a Kingfisher is forced to leave her territories during the winter, she is more likely to get into fights with other Kingfishers or end up in places where there isn't much food. Since harsh winters can decimate Kingfisher populations, she is at risk of starvation. In northern climates, less than a quarter of kingfisher species survive the winter, with fewer than one-fourth of birds living from one breeding season to the next.