Eurasian kingfisher, River kingfisher, Common kingfisher, Eurasian kingfisher, River kingfisher
The common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis ), also known as the Eurasian kingfisher and river kingfisher, is a small kingfisher with seven subspecies recognized within its wide distribution across Eurasia and North Africa. It is resident in much of its range, but migrates from areas where rivers freeze in winter.Show More
This sparrow-sized bird has the typical short-tailed, large-headed kingfisher profile; it has blue upperparts, orange underparts and a long bill. It feeds mainly on fish, caught by diving, and has special visual adaptations to enable it to see prey under water. The glossy white eggs are laid in a nest at the end of a burrow in a riverbank.Show Less
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
A piscivore is a carnivorous animal that eats primarily fish. Piscivorous is equivalent to the Greek-derived word ichthyophagous. Fish were the die...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Arboreal locomotion is the locomotion of animals in trees. In habitats in which trees are present, animals have evolved to move in them. Some anima...
Serial monogamy is a mating system in which a pair bonds only for one breeding season.
Partial migration is when within a migratory species or even within a single population, some individuals migrate while others do not.
The Common kingfisher is amongst the most colorful birds and has beautiful brilliant plumage, though, despite its extraordinary colors, sometimes it is difficult to see when it is in dappled shade, and its colors are also not very obvious in flight. Furthermore, its shy nature means that it is not often seen. Its upper parts are bright blue and its underparts a rich chestnut-red. The Male and the female are generally similar but the females have a bill with a red base, whereas the male has one that is completely black. Juveniles are similar in appearance but have duller greener plumage.
The Common kingfisher occurs throughout Europe and in Asia as far to the east as Japan, and south of the Sahara in Africa. Common kingfishers live year-round in the south, while northern populations fly south in winter away from the freezing water. In temperate regions, these birds inhabit clear, slow-flowing streams and rivers, and lakes with well-vegetated banks. They frequent scrubs and bushes with overhanging branches close to shallow open water in which they hunt. In winter Common kingfishers are more coastal, often feeding in estuaries or harbors and along rocky seashores. Tropical populations are found near slow-flowing rivers, in mangrove creeks, and swamps
As with all kingfishers, the Common kingfisher is very territorial, mainly because each day it has to eat about 60% of its body weight. They even defend their territory against their mates and offspring. Individuals are solitary for most of the year, roosting in heavy cover beside their favorite hunting spot. When another kingfisher comes into its territory, the birds will both sit on a perch at some distance from one another and perform territorial displays, usually the display of beaks and plumage. Fights occasionally occur, one bird grabbing the other one’s beak and trying to hold their opponent under the water. Their flight is very fast, causing their wings to seem like a blue haze. These birds communicate vocally and are well known for a long, trilling call like a repetition of the sound “chee”. During mating, the male whistles loudly to a female and will chase her through and above the trees. When diving for prey, their eyes are covered by a membrane and they rely on touch alone to know when they should snap their jaws shut.
The Common kingfisher is carnivore (piscivore) and mainly eats fish and small crustaceans, such as prawns and crabs. It also catches insects in flight.
Common kingfishers are serially monogamous and seek a new mate every year. They nest on their own. The female is given food by the male before copulation, usually a fish. 2-3 clutches of eggs are laid yearly, in April, and another by July, with sometimes, a third in early October. Nests are on sandy banks along streams. Sometimes they use a hole in a wall or a rotten tree stump, or a termite mound, where they dig a tunnel and at the end create a nest chamber. Both male and female work to excavate a 50 to 90 cm long burrow, taking turns. 6 to 7 white eggs are laid and incubation lasts around 19 to 21 days, done by both parents. Usually, the female does the brooding at night and both male and female do it during the day. Young are given food by both their parents and they fledge at about 23-24 days, sometimes more. Four days later they make their first dive. Very soon they become independent and leave the territory where they were born.
The Common kingfisher in most parts of its range is indeed common, but it is under threat from river pollution, disturbances, and human developments. It is also vulnerable to bouts of severe winter weather, as it is unable to feed when bodies of water freeze over.
According to IUCN’s Red List, the global population of the Common kingfisher is around 700,000-1,399,999 mature individuals. Estimates for national populations include: in China, about 10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and 50-10,000 individuals on migration; in Taiwan, 10,000-100,000 breeding pairs; in Korea, 100-10,000 breeding pairs, with 50-1,000 individuals on migration; in Japan, 10,000-100,000 breeding pairs with 50-1,000 individuals on migration, and in Russia, 100-100,000 breeding pairs with 50-10,000 individuals on migration. The European population is estimated at 97,500-167,000 pairs, which equates to 195,000-334,000 mature individuals. Overall, currently, Common kingfishers are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Common kingfishers serve as a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem. As they feed on small aquatic animals, toxins in the water affect them severely. A strong kingfisher population therefore usually means a healthy habitat. Common kingfishers are also important predators throughout their range of small fish from freshwater habitats, thus controlling their populations.