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kingfisher facts

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Kingfishers are brightly colored and strange-looking birds that live near rivers and bodies of water around the world.

With their brightly colored plumage and loud, high-pitched call, the kingfisher really stands out from the crowd. You can often see them perched in trees, barely moving. But once they see their prey, they spring into action and swoop down to catch it. The number of variations in the kingfisher family is truly impressive.

3 Surprising Facts About Kingfishers

The ODKF or three-toed kingfisher or black-backed kingfisher species constantly feeds its hatchlings during monsoons to boost their growth as the metabolism is very high.


  • The ancient Greeks wove many elaborate myths about the kingfisher. One of the most famous myths is that of the "Day of Peace," which refers to the calm period of clear weather on the winter solstice. The Greeks believed that the wind god calmed the weather so that a kingfisher named Halcyon could lay her eggs in peace. The origin of this myth is unclear, as kingfishers don't actually breed in winter.
  • Kingfishers have very strong legs because they spend most of their time in trees.
  • Kingfisher eggs are almost pure white.

evolution and origin

The earliest kingfisher fossils are found in Lower Eocene sediments dating back about 40 million years ago. These Wyoming deposits are complemented by more recent deposits from Germany and France, as well as Australian material less than 25 million years old.

Thanks to improved lenses, they can accurately judge the depth of prey even underwater. When it dives, a membrane slides over its eye to keep water out. The nictitating membrane is what it's called.

The science found that the cyan and blue barbs of its feathers have spongy nanostructures of various sizes, which change how light is reflected and produce the visible colors. Small changes in the makeup of the barbs result in small changes in color.

where to find kingfishers

Water willow

©Lukasz Lukasik/Creative Commons

These birds can be found in almost every region of the world except the most extreme polar and desert climates. The greatest concentrations appear to be in the tropics, such as Africa, South Asia, Australia and other parts of the Pacific. Most species live near rivers and lakes.

the bird's nest

Kingfishers have a habit of burrowing in river banks, tree hollows, or termite mounds (unusual for a bird). After digging out about a week's worth of dirt with their feet, the parent will dig a burrow, about 3 to 6.5 feet long, with a nesting chamber at the end.

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scientific name

Couple of Collared Kingfishers (Todiramphus chloris) perched on a branch

©Anusak Thuwangkawat/Shutterstock.com

The scientific name of the kingfisher family is Kingfisheridae. The scientific name is derived from the bird's Latin name, alcedo. There are about 90 recognized species, each of which is divided into three distinct types: true fishing kingfisher, forest kingfisher and New World kingfisher. The whole family of kingfishers is closely related to the bee-eaters, roller-wheelers, and columbines in the coralliformes.

Different types

Here are 13 different types of kingfishers:

  1. belt kingfisher
  2. tree kingfisher
  3. kingfisher
  4. collared kingfisher
  5. green kingfisher
  6. giant kingfisher
  7. malachite kingfisher
  8. Amazon Kingfisher
  9. woodland kingfisher
  10. crested kingfisher
  11. Kingfisher
  12. holy kingfisher
  13. ring kingfisher

Size, Appearance and Behavior

Kingfishers look like they were oddly put together in a laboratory. It has a relatively large head, thick feet and a dagger-like beak attached to a rather small, compact body and stubby tail. The smallest species is the 4-inch long African pygmy kingfisher, while the largest are the giant kingfisher and kookaburra with a 2-foot wingspan and 18-inch body. The plumage is usually some combination of bright blue, green, orange or red, decorated with various patterns and stripes. Some species also have a prominent crown on their heads.

These birds prefer small social organizations consisting of pairs or families. It relies on a range of different vocalizations, including clicks, whistles, squeals and chirps, to communicate with each other. Native to Australia, the kookaburra has the most cheerful voice of all species. As the name suggests, this cry resembles a loud laugh. Kingfishers also spend a lot of time keeping clean. It dives to rinse and rubs its beak against branches to keep it pristine.

Modes and Timing

Generally, these birds rarely stray far from their territories. The home range is so important to them that they will aggressively defend their territory from invaders. Only a few species of kingfishers break this rule. For example, the banded kingfisher is a long-distance migratory species. Breeds as far north as Alaska and Canada, and winters south as far as Mexico and Central America. Belted kingfishers also occupy the continental United States year-round.


Although the birds are omnivorous, they seem to be best at hunting and eating meat. Its favorite hunting tactic is to observe its surroundings from a stalk or branch, and then to pounce on unsuspecting prey. If the prey is still alive and wriggling, the kingfisher may smack it on the perch to subdue it. With its voracious appetite, the kingfisher has the ability to digest prey larger than its entire body. Prey sometimes protrudes from the mouth as part of it is being digested in the stomach.

What do kingfishers eat?

Despite the name, most types do not specialize in fish. They are highly opportunistic hunters and will eat insects, snakes, skinks, spiders, crabs, mice, scorpions, berries, and even smaller birds. The exact diet depends on local food availability.

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Predators and Threats

These birds face several threats in the wild from natural enemies, habitat loss and the introduction of non-native predators.

What do kingfishers eat?

An adult bird has only a few natural enemies in the wild. It can evade most animals by flying around trees or diving into water. Usually only a raptor is fast and agile enough to keep up with it in the air. Raccoons, skunks, wild dogs, foxes, snakes, mongooses and chimpanzees are all known predators of the more vulnerable kingfisher eggs.

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

The mating season for these birds can occur any time of year (but spring and summer are more common for temperate kingfisher species). Courtship involves the complex process of aerial chases, mutual feeding, and attention-grabbing displays of affection.

This helps strengthen their bond, as once they find a mate, the birds often pair for life. After the mates have mated, the female lays one egg per day until she has laid 2 to 10 eggs in the nest. Depending on favorable conditions, a couple can have up to four litters a year.

Because the chick emerges blind and helpless from the egg, parents always play an important role in the development of their offspring. Kookaburra and blue-winged kookaburra older children can also help their parents with caregiving duties.

After three to eight weeks, the chicks will finally develop flight feathers. The chicks quickly learn the nuances of flight before the parents finally force the chicks to leave the nest. Life expectancy in the wild is about 6 to 14 years, depending on the species.


The entire Kingfisher family is in good health. Most species are generally considered by conservation organizations to be of least concern. The common kingfisher is probably the most widespread species, with about 700,000 to 1.4 million adults in the wild.

The giant banded kingfisher is also quite robust. However, some of the rarest kingfishers in the world, including the Marquesas and Tuamotu kingfishers that live on small Pacific islands, are critically endangered. The Micronesian kingfisher is one of the worst, it is completely extinct in the wild. Only about 150 are kept in captivity, some of them at the San Diego Zoo.

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about the author

My name is Rebecca and I have been a professional freelancer for nearly ten years. I write SEO content and graphic design. When I'm not working, I'm obsessed with cats and pet mice.

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Kingfisher FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do kingfishers migrate?

Only a few kingfishers are actually migratory. The rest fiercely guard their homes year-round.

How many eggs does a kingfisher lay?

Kingfishers lay 2 to 10 eggs per clutch, with a maximum of 4 clutches per year.

How fast do kingfishers fly?

The top speed of the Kingfisher is about 25 mph.

What is the wingspan of a kingfisher?

Kingfisher wingspans range from a few inches to about 2 feet. A typical species has a wingspan of about a foot.

When Do Kingfisher Chicks Leave the Nest?

Kingfisher chicks usually leave the nest within a few months of hatching. However, some species are very family oriented. They allow offspring to remain in the nest to help raise the next batch.

What does a kingfisher look like?

Kingfishers are easily recognized by their disproportionate appearance. It has a small body and tail, a relatively large head, strong feet, and a long, narrow beak. Each species has its own set of colors and patterns.

What do kingfishers eat?

Fishing is the stock and trade of many kingfisher species. But they eat just about anything, including insects, arthropods, reptiles, small mammals, and other birds.

Where do kingfishers live?

Kingfishers live in forests and grasslands next to rivers and lakes.

Are Kingfishers Rare?

Kingfishers are one of the most common birds in the world.

What is the call of a kingfisher?

Kingfisher calls include whistles, chirps, screeches, screeches, clicks, and even laughter. These sounds are not organized into songs, but they all seem to have a unique purpose of communicating with others.

Are kingfishers herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Kingfishers are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and other animals.

To which kingdom do kingfishers belong?

Kingfishers belong to the animal kingdom.

Which category do kingfishers belong to?

Kingfishers belong to the class Aves.

What phylum do kingfishers belong to?

Kingfishers belong to the phylum Chordate.

What family do kingfishers belong to?

Kingfishers belong to the Alcedines family.

What order do kingfishers belong to?

Kingfishers belong to the order Coralomorpha.

What type of mulch does Kingfishers have?

Kingfishers are covered with feathers.

Who are the kingfisher's natural enemies?

Predators of kingfishers include foxes, snakes and raccoons.

What are the distinctive features of kingfishers?

The kingfisher has a small body and a long, pointed and straight beak.

What are some interesting facts about kingfishers?

Kingfishers inhabit wetlands and woodlands all over the world!

What is the lifespan of a kingfisher?

Kingfishers can live 6 to 10 years.

How do kingfishers give birth?

Kingfishers lay eggs.

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  1. Animal Diversity website, available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Alcedinidae/
  2. San Diego Zoo, available here: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/kingfisher