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Common Kingfisher Fact File

Appearance

The common kingfisher is a small bird with a long, sharp bill. They have greenish-blue feathers across their crown, back and wings with cobalt blue feathers on the tail and rump. On the underside they have cinnamon colored feathers. Running behind the eye is a patch of cinnamon next to the white ear tufts. Another small patch of white feathers is under the chin.

In males the bill is colored black while females have streak of pale orange on the lower beak which is the only visible difference between males and females. This bill can measure up to 4cm (1.6in) long.

Common kingfishers eyes are protected when the dive in to the water to catch fish as they have a third eyelid known as the nictitating membrane. These cover the dark brown eyes.

They have small red feet. The toes are joined together along part of their length which helps them to dig their nesting tunnels.

Their body measures up to 16cm (6.5in) long and weighs up to 35g (1.25oz). The wingspan is 25cm (9.8in) across.

Diet

The common kingfisher is a carnivore. They feed mostly on freshwater fish. This is supplemented with crustaceans, insects and amphibians.


Fish are caught by plunge-diving in to the water.


After they eat their fish they regurgitate a pellet containing the bones which they are unable to digest.

common kingfisher

Scientific Name

Alcedo atthis

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

35g (1.25oz)

Length

16cm (6.5in)

Wingspan

25cm (9.8in)

Lifespan

15 years

Diet

Carnivorous

Range

They occupy a wide-range across Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. Here they can be found in the following countries – Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of, Korea, Republic of, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine, State of, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia,Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Taiwan, Province of China, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam and Yemen.

Habitat

Common kingfishers make their home in forests, grasslands and wetlands. They will make their home near water with still or gently flowing waters preferred. These need to have reeds, rushes and shrubs at the bank where they can perch and wait for fish.


During winter common kingfishers may move to areas with brackish water to hunt as their usual watercourses freeze over.

common kingfisher

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Reproduction

The breeding season is highly variable based on where they live. In England breeding occurs from March to July, March to May in Morocco, March to June in India and March to August in Japan.


Nesting takes place in a nest which is dug in to a river bank. These may be the discarded burrows of a sand martin or water vole. Some may nest in a wall or tree stump instead of these burrows.


Pairs will remain together for the breeding season. Both sexes work together to incubate the eggs for their 19-21 day incubation period. These birds have an average clutch of between 5 and 7 eggs though up to 10 have been recorded.


One parent will go out to find a fish which is the correct size for the young to eat and return these to the nest. It will take 23-27 days for the young to fledge. Soon after fledging the parents chase the chicks off so they can prepare to raise the next brood.


Between 2 and 3 broods may be raised each year.


Sexual maturity is reached at 1 year old.

Behavior

In northern areas of their range where temperatures approach freezing they may migrate south for winter.


Outside of the breeding season the common kingfisher is solitary.


They create a territory which is fiercely defended due to their large food needs.


They are incredibly fast in flight meaning most sightings are just a flash of blue.


Common kingfishers have a long, trilling call which sounds like them repeating ‘chee’ over and over.

common kingfisher

Predators and Threats

In northern areas of their range where temperatures approach freezing they may migrate south for winter.


Outside of the breeding season the common kingfisher is solitary.


They create a territory which is fiercely defended due to their large food needs.


They are incredibly fast in flight meaning most sightings are just a flash of blue.


Common kingfishers have a long, trilling call which sounds like them repeating ‘chee’ over and over.

Quick facts

Across many parts of Europe they are the only native species of kingfisher.


They may also be known as the Eurasian kingfisher.


Their color is not from pigments but iridescence in the light. This means in different light levels they have a difference appearance.

Photo Gallery

common kingfisher

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Photo Credits

Under License

References

Christansen, P.,2019. Birds. 2nd ed. London: Amber Books.


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK


BirdLife International. 2016. Alcedo atthis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22683027A89575948. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22683027A89575948.en. Downloaded on 02 November 2020.


Gardner, R. 2006. “Alcedo atthis” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 02, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Alcedo_atthis/


Trust, W., 2020. [online] Woodland Trust. Available at: <https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/kingfisher/> [Accessed 2 November 2020].


BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/11/2020


Bouglouan, N., 2020. Common Kingfisher. [online] Oiseaux-birds.com. Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-common-kingfisher.html> [Accessed 2 November 2020].

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