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Scientific Classification
  • Alcedinidae
  • Halcyonidae
  • Cerylidae[1]
Kingfisher resting

The Kingfishers are any of the species of birds belonging to the taxonomic suborder Alcedines. They are perhaps best known for their catching fish by diving from a perch and spearing them with their beak - thus the name kingfisher. Although they feed mainly on fish, they also eat insects, crustaceans, frogs, etc.

These brightly colored birds are beautiful, yet their population is slowly decreasing due to deforestation. There are multiple kinds of Kingfishers, and they have a wide range of habitats. Some live in woodlands, water, and even forest. They are uniquely colored creatures having vibrant colors of feathers. As seen in both pictures to the right, they are mainly blue and orange with tufts of white on their chests.

Body Design

Kingfisher searching for prey

Kingfishers are known to be beautiful and unique birds. Appearing in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. They are a fascinating species to most bird watchers and everybody in general. For the most part, Kingfishers are decorated with brightly colored feathers, yet the majority of the body appears to be cobalt blue. The underside of the body is usually orange with white tufts of feathers. The legs of the Kingfisher are mainly orange or red, and are considered shorter than most other birds legs. Both legs consist of small feet with two partially webbed toes. Most Kingfishers are around sixteen or seventeen cm long, and have a wingspan of anywhere from twenty-four to twenty-six cm. They are also incredibly lightweight, weighing approximately thirty-five to fifty grams. Compared to other birds, Kingfishers are average, yet they are known to have a large head and large beak.

An interesting yet unknown fact about the Kingfisher is that their beak appears to be aerodynamically efficient. This means that their beak benefits themselves because it makes catching their prey much easier. The beak allows them to move much more quickly and makes a much smaller impact in the water. When this fact became known, the Japanese began to model some of their trains after it, hence the Japanese Bullet Train. [2]

In comparison between the male and female Kingfisher, the males have white bellies, whereas the females have white or sometimes blue. The males also do not have a rufous band, yet females do. Yet they both have chest bands that are known to be either blue or red. [3]

Life Cycle

For most Kingfishers, breeding begins in April and continues until late June. Kingfisher breeding is often associated with water. The males and females dig along banks and other water sources, attempting to dig burrows for their eggs. They continue to try to protect the eggs by lining the hole with grass, leaves, and other vegetation. When the female delivers the eggs, she usually delivers five-eight eggs, and her and the male take turns watching and protecting them for up to twenty-five days. The chicks become independent after about twenty-three or twenty-four days, no longer needing their parents protection. The eggs development depends on how many eggs are laid. If there are more eggs, they remain warm and develop faster. For the first 10 or 11 days, they still receive help and care from their parents. [4]

As said previously, both parents take turns incubating the eggs. If they do not do this, the eggs will not hatch. Incubation consists of sitting gently on the eggs and heating them with their own body temperatures. The minuscule birds are born without feathers, thus they must stay close to their parents for warmth and also protection. They then will learn to fly and will later leave. The average life cycle of a Kingfisher has been known to be around two years. [5]


Mother kingfisher feeding the baby

Kingfishers are extremely territorial creatures. In relation to other birds, they are not very common. They will be found in communities such as estuaries and along the coast in the winter, with different species of birds. In addition, because of their small size, they have many predators including: foxes, cats, raccoons, snakes, small mammals, and other birds. [6]

The population is also shrinking because their eggs are considered food for other predators. The population also seems to be deteriorating due to habitat loss. Mainly the woodland and forest kingfishers are losing their homes because of deforestation.


The diet of a Kingfisher consists of mainly of fish, such as minnows and sticklebacks, but also aquatic and land insects, crustaceans, frogs. An relatively unknown fact about Kingfishers is that they eat much more than other birds in the same taxonomy. A family of Kingfishers can eat as many as one hundred fish a day. [7]

Also, in addition to eating small insects, they also have been spotted eating lizards, small snakes, and vertebrates. Others use their long thick bills to burrow into the ground and catch earthworms. Kingfishers are also territorial. They all have specific feeding grounds and they believe they are the only ones entitled to them. Overall, Kingfishers are generalized eaters. [8]

In addition, the diet of the Kingfisher depends on the region in which they live. For forest and woodland kingfishers, they mainly feed on insects, specifically grasshoppers. In contrast, the water Kingfishers feed solely on fish. Their feeding technique includes them sitting high up in a perch, spotting their prey and swooping down for the kill. After they have caught their prey, they will usually bring it back to their perch and then eat it. [9]



  1. Kingfisher. Wikipedia. Date of Access 9 January 2011. Unknown Author.
  2. Kingfisher. Waterscape. Web. Date of Access 16 January 2012. Unknown Author .
  3. Belted Kingfisher. All About Birds. Web. Date of Access 16 January 2012. Unknown Author.
  4. Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon. The University of Georgia Museum of Natural History. Web. Access Date 16 January 2012. Unknown Author.
  5. Kingfisher. Interesting Facts. Web. Date of Publication 17 September 2006. Unknown Author.
  6. Kingfisher. a-z animals. Web. Date of Access 29 January 2012. Unknown Author.
  7. Kingfisher. Interesting Facts. Web. Date of Publication 17 September 2006. Unknown Author.
  8. Family Alcedinidae Pekaka (Malay). Kingfishers. Web. Date of Access 16 January 2012. Unknown Author.
  9. Diet and Feeding. Wikipedia. Web. Date of Publication 15 January 2012. Unknown Author.