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Reproduction

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All kingfishers are territorial. Most are also monogamous, and many pair for life. Courtship involves aerial chases, individual and joint displays, and courtship feeding. Breeding pairs emphatically defend a territory using calls and displays, which can include spiraling flight displays or displaying boldly marked plumage by perching high within the territory and spinning slowly around a vertical axis. Kingfishers actively defend their territory, chasing intruders and when necessary, grappling in the air, sometimes toppling to the ground or into the water where the fight continues. Particularly aggressive neighbors may even enter the nest cavities of one another to puncture eggs. Territory size varies between species and with food abundance and nest site availability. Where nest sites are particularly scarce, a few species of kingfishers will breed in loose colonies and defend only an area immediately surrounding the nest hole.

Some species of kingfishers are cooperative breeders. In these species, a male and female pair has one to several “helpers” that help defend the territory and feed the chicks. Helpers can be primary (related) or secondary (unrelated). They are often young from previous broods that may help at the nest for several years, and can dramatically increase nestling survival in some cases. Polygamy is known to occur in at least one species of kingfisher; male common kingfishers (Alcedo meninting) in Russia frequently breed with up to three females.

Mating System: monogamous ; polygynous ; cooperative breeder

Details of the breeding biology of many kingfishers are unknown. Most kingfishers that have been studied begin breeding at one year old, and can raise one to four broods per year. The female lays 2 to 10 (usually 3 to 6) white, unmarked eggs that weigh 2 to 12 g each. Eggs are laid approximately one day apart, and incubation begins either when the first egg is laid, or after the majority of eggs have been laid. The naked and blind chicks hatch synchronously in species where incubation does not begin until most or all eggs have been laid, and asynchronously in species where incubation begins with the first or second egg. Siblicide is common in the latter. Nestlings fledge three to eight weeks after hatching, and are dependent on the parents for supplemental food for several days to weeks after fledging. In most species, the adults eventually force the fledglings to leave their territory. The timing of breeding varies considerably within this family. Generally, kingfishers in temperate regions breed during the spring and summer. Those in tropical regions can breed year-round or seasonally during the time of highest prey availability.

Most kingfishers normally rear one brood per year. However, under favorable conditions, some species may rear up to four broods per year. In some cases, the male may even begin digging a new nest tunnel before the young of the previous clutch have fledged.

Kingfishers nest most often in earthen banks such as those along rivers or lakes, but they also use termite nests and tree cavities. Tree cavities made by other species, such as woodpeckers, are readily used. If these are not available, kingfishers will excavate a cavity in wood (if it is sufficiently rotten), or another substrate. The male and female excavate the cavity together, taking turns pecking and scraping material with their bills and feet. Several species begin excavation by flying bill-first into the surface, an occasionally fatal strategy. The tunnel to a kingfisher nest cavity may be as long as three meters. The cavity is slightly larger in diameter than the tunnel, and is not lined with any material. Nest cavities can take up to a week to excavate, and pairs often use the same nest hole for many years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

Both male and female kingfishers incubate the eggs, which take 2 to 4 weeks to hatch. During the nestling stage, which lasts 3 to 8 weeks, both parents feed the young regurgitant, and later whole prey items. During the last part of the nestling stage, parents may feed each chick as frequently as once every 15 minutes. When the nestlings are large enough to fly, the parents may withhold food for a few days to encourage the chicks to leave the nest. After the chicks have fledged, the parents provide supplemental food while the chicks learn to hunt for themselves. Some kingfishers also teach their young to hunt. For example, belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) drop dead prey into the water for their young to practice diving. After up to three weeks of supplemental feeding, adult kingfishers usually force their young to leave their territory.

Adult kingfishers do not engage in any nest sanitation, such as removing feces from the nest cavity. Because most kingfisher nests have only one outlet, nests can become rather smelly and are often infested with maggots as feces from the chicks and food scraps accumulate.

Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care

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Untitled

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Fossils of kingfishers from as early as 40 million years ago have been found in Wyoming (USA).

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Behavior

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Kingfishers have very good eyesight, and rely heavily on sight for hunting. Their eyes have two fovea, which allow them to very accurately judge the distance to a prey item by turning their head slightly. Their eyes are also especially rich in oils that enhance color vision. At least one species of kingfisher is able to see near UV light. When some kingfishers dive for fish, their eyes are covered by a nictitating membrane. This means that these species must rely on their sense of touch to know when to snap their bill closed in order to catch the fish.

Kingfishers are highly vocal species that used calls to advertise their territory and to communicate between family members. Some pairs of kingfishers call in duets, and cooperative groups of kookaburras call in a chorus at dawn and dusk. While the vocalizations of most species are not well studied, those species that have been studied often have several different vocalizations. For example, belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) use at least six calls in various combinations to convey messages. Several species also produce non-vocal sounds, such as bill rattling.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Other Communication Modes: duets ; choruses

Perception Channels: visual ; ultraviolet; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Conservation Status

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The biggest threat facing most kingfisher populations is the destruction or alteration of their habitat by logging, pollution of water bodies and development. Significant numbers of kingfishers are also killed by shooting, collision with cars and buildings, and accidental poisoning from pesticides and poisons intended for other species. While it appears that many species of kingfishers are relatively adaptable to changes in habitat, the biology of most species is not well known, making conservation planning or prediction of impacts to habitat difficult.

The IUCN lists 1 kingfisher species as “Endangered”, 11 as “Vulnerable”, 12 as “Near-threatened”, and 3 as “Data deficient”. No kingfisher species are listed under any CITES Appendices. In the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists one species, the Guam Micronesian kingfisher (Halcyon cinnamomina cinnamomina) as endangered. Four species are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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Comprehensive Description

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Kingfishers belong to the order Coraciiformes and the family Alcedinidae. Within Coraciiformes, kingfishers are grouped into the suborder Alcidines, with todies (Todidae) and motmots (Motmotidae). Alcedinidae comprises approximately 17 genera and 91 species, and is frequently subdivided into three subfamilies; Alcedininae, which comprises most of the “fishing” kingfishers, Halcyoninae, which comprises the “forest kingfishers” that reside primarily in Australasia, and Cerylinae, which includes all of the New World kingfishers.

Kingfishers are small to medium sized colorful birds with short necks, large heads and long, thick bills. They live primarily in wooded habitats of tropical regions, often near water. Despite their name, not all kingfishers are fishing specialists. While some species do consume primarily fish, most species have unspecialized diets that include a high proportion of insects. Most kingfishers are monogamous, territorial breeders, though a few species breed cooperatively.

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Benefits

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Kingfishers sometimes take privately owned fish from fish farms or garden ponds.

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Benefits

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Kingfishers are collected for sale to tourists, or for their bright plumage, which is used in traditional costumes of some societies.

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material

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Associations

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As predators of various species, kingfishers affect the populations of their prey. Most species of kingfishers are not parasitized by brood parasites, but a few in Africa are hosts for greater (Indicator indicator) and lesser honeyguides (Indicator minor).

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Trophic Strategy

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Despite the name of this group, not all kingfishers are fish specialists. Many kingfishers are unspecialized carnivores that are often largely insectivorous, and may take prey from the ground, the air, water or foliage. Kingfishers are highly adaptable, and will generally take whatever prey is available. Their diets can include a variety of insects (frequently grasshoppers), reptiles (skinks, snakes), amphibians, mollusks, non-insect arthropods (centipedes, millipedes, scorpions, spiders, crabs), mice, and even small birds. Those species that are fish specialists usually also include some insects in their diet. One species of kingfisher has been seen eating carrion, and a few species occasionally eat berries or the fruit of oil palms. Kingfishers can take prey that are large relative to their body size. For example, laughing kookaburras can take snakes up to 1 meter long, though the tail may protrude from their bill for a time while the head end is digested.

The “fishing” kingfishers for which this group is named, can dive up to two meters below the surface of the water to catch fish. Some have a nictitating membrane that covers and protects their eyes as they enter the water, which means that they must anticipate the movements of their prey before they enter the water, and rely on their sense of touch to determine when to snap their beak shut. Other feeding specialists among the kingfishers include shovel-billed kingfishers (Clytoceyx rex) which use their beak to plough through earth and leaf-litter, looking for earthworms, grubs, snails, centipedes and lizards. Ruddy kingfishers (Halcyon coromanda) in the Philippines remove land snails from their shells by smashing them against stones on the forest floor. A few species follow other animals (including otters, platypus, cormorants, egrets, cattle or army ants) to catch prey that they disturb. Some species also attend grassfires to catch prey that are scattered by the flames. Kleptoparasitism has been reported in several species; the victims included blackbirds, song thrushes, water shrews, hawks and tree snakes.

The majority of kingfisher species hunt from a perch, surveying quietly for prey, and swooping down to surprise it. A few species search for prey while flying, and a few others forage on the ground. Most species catch prey by surprising it, and rarely chase prey for any length of time. Once a kingfisher catches a prey item, it carries it to a perch (often the same one from which it was hunting) and uses its beak to beat the prey item against the perch until it is soft enough to swallow whole. This preparation removes the legs and wings of insects and breaks the bones, protective spines, and shells of fish, crustaceans and other prey.

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Piscivore , Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore )

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Distribution

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Kingfishers are found in all regions of the world, except in polar regions and on some oceanic islands. The majority of kingfisher species are tropical. Most kingfishers are found the Australasian, African and Oriental regions of the world, with the highest numbers in the Australasian region. Only six species, all in the subfamily Cerylinae, occur in the New World.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian ; neotropical (Native ); australian (Native ); oceanic islands (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan

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Habitat

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Most kingfishers live in forested or open woodland habitat, often near water. About 44 species live in closed-canopy forests (primary and secondary), 17 species in wooded savannas, and 31 species in aquatic habitats including seashores, mangrove swamps, lakes, rivers and streams. One species lives in desert scrub.

The main habitat requirements for kingfishers are food and nest site availability. Forest-dwelling species are generally found in the lower levels of the canopy where they forage from the forest floor. Kingfishers that require aquatic habitat can be found most often near small water bodies such as mountain streams, rivers and lakes. Most also require perches near the shore to hunt from, but a few species are able to hunt by hovering, and can forage up to 3 km from shore. Kingfishers excavate nests in earthen banks (usually), tree cavities (either natural, excavated by other animals, or excavated by the kingfishers if the wood is sufficiently rotten) or termite nests. Many kingfishers show a remarkable ability to adapt to different habitats, and may shift between very different breeding and non-breeding habitats. Kingfishers live at elevations from sea level to more than 2800 meters.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; coastal

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: riparian

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Life Expectancy

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Kingfishers are thought to be relatively long-lived, but survival and longevity unknown for most species. Adult annual survival is thought to range between 25 and 55 %. A common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is among the oldest known kingfishers at 15 years and 5 months. A captive laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) also lived over 15 years. Sources of kingfisher mortality include predation, collection, and collision with man-made structures such as windows, towers and building during nocturnal migrations.

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Morphology

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Kingfishers are small to medium sized (10 to 46 cm long, 9 to 490 g) thickset birds with large heads, short necks, short legs, and long, thick bills. They typically have rounded wings and a short tail, though eight species of paradise kingfishers have long tail streamers. Kingfishers have small, weak, 3- or 4-toed feet that are syndactyl, meaning that the front toes are all fused to some degree. The bill and feet of adult kingfishers are black or bright red, orange or yellow, and the eyes are usually dark brown. Kingfishers are generally colorful and boldly marked, often with blues and greens above and a mixture of red, orange and white below. Many species also have a pale collar and several species have a distinctive crest.

The bills of kingfishers are all long and thick, but vary in shape in accordance with the foraging habits of each species. Fly-catching species have dorsoventrally flattened bills, whereas fishing species have laterally flattened bills. Ground-feeding species, including shovel-billed kingfishers (Clytoceyx rex) usually have shorter, quite broad bills.

The sexes of most kingfisher species are similar in size and plumage, though some species show distinct differences. For example, the males of some paradise kingfishers have much longer tail streamers than females. Reversed sexual size dimorphism (females markedly larger than males) is found in the two largest kookaburra species, laughing kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae) and blue-winged kookaburras (Dacelo leachii). Juveniles typically look similar to adults, with somewhat duller plumage and often with mottling where adults have solid coloration.

Like motmots and todies, kingfishers often have brilliant plumage, are largely insectivorous, and nest in cavities that are often excavated in earthen banks. Kingfishers are distinguished by their long, thick, straight beak and plumage that is more often blue than green.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; female larger; ornamentation

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Associations

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There are relatively few records of adult kingfisher predation. Kingfishers are quick fliers, and probably able to escape most predators. Most known predators of adult kingfisher are raptors. Nest predators include foxes, minks, dingoes, skunks, raccoons, chimpanzees, snakes , monitor lizards, driver ants, and mongooses.

When threatened, kingfishers seem to employ one of two strategies; they either try to evade the predator by dodging behind trees or diving into the water, or they attack the predator directly, mobbing it until it leaves the area. A few species have alternative strategies; yellow-billed kookaburras raise their head feathers when threatened, revealing two black spots that resemble large eyes. When alarmed, young red-backed kookaburras assume a posture with their eyes closed and their beak pointed upward that make them look like the limb of a tree from above. Kingfishers aggressively defend the nest area against nest predators, often attacking intruders including humans.

Known Predators:

  • owls (Strigiformes)
  • foxes (Vulpes)
  • minks (Mustela)
  • dingoes (Canis lupus dingo)
  • skunks (Mephitinae)
  • raccoons (Procyon lotor)
  • chimpanzees (Pan)
  • snakes (Serpentes)
  • monitor lizards (Varanidae)
  • driver ants (Formicidae)
  • mongooses and relatives (Herpestidae)

Anti-predator Adaptations: mimic

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Kingfisher

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For other uses, see Kingfisher (disambiguation).

Phylogeny of the Alcedinidae .mw-parser-output table.clade{border-spacing:0;margin:0;font-size:100%;line-height:100%;border-collapse:separate;width:auto}.mw-parser-output table.clade table.clade{width:100%}.mw-parser-output table.clade td{border:0;padding:0;vertical-align:middle;text-align:center}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-label{width:0.8em;border:0;padding:0 0.2em;vertical-align:bottom;text-align:center}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-slabel{border:0;padding:0 0.2em;vertical-align:top;text-align:center}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-bar{vertical-align:middle;text-align:left;padding:0 0.5em}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-leaf{border:0;padding:0;text-align:left;vertical-align:middle}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-leafR{border:0;padding:0;text-align:right} Alcedinidae  

Alcedininae

     

Halcyoninae

   

Cerylinae

      Cladogram based on Moyle (2006)[1]
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The paradise kingfishers of New Guinea have unusually long tails for the group.
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The kookaburra has a birdcall which sounds like laughter.
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Like many forest-living kingfishers, the yellow-billed kingfisher often nests in arboreal termite nests.
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The Oriental dwarf kingfisher is considered a bad omen by warriors of the Dusun tribe of Borneo.
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Forest Kingfisher in Kakadu National Park

Kingfishers or Alcedinidae are a family of small to medium-sized, brightly colored birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species found outside the Americas. The family contains 114 species and is divided into three subfamilies and 19 genera. All kingfishers have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. Most species have bright plumage with only small differences between the sexes. Most species are tropical in distribution, and a slight majority are found only in forests. They consume a wide range of prey usually caught by swooping down from a perch. While kingfishers are usually thought to live near rivers and eat fish, many species live away from water and eat small invertebrates. Like other members of their order, they nest in cavities, usually tunnels dug into the natural or artificial banks in the ground. Some kingfishers nest in arboreal termite nests. A few species, principally insular forms, are threatened with extinction. In Britain, the word "kingfisher" normally refers to the common kingfisher.

Taxonomy, systematics and evolution

The kingfishers family Alcedinidae is in the order Coraciiformes, which also includes the motmots, bee-eaters, todies, rollers and ground-rollers.[2] The name of the family was introduced (as Alcedia) by the French polymath Constantine Samuel Rafinesque in 1815.[3][4] It is divided into three subfamilies, the tree kingfishers (Halcyoninae), the river kingfishers (Alcedininae) and the water kingfishers (Cerylinae).[2] The name Daceloninae is sometimes used for the tree kingfisher subfamily but it was introduced by Charles Lucien Bonaparte in 1841 while Halcyoninae introduced by Nicholas Aylward Vigors in 1825 is earlier and has priority.[5] A few taxonomists elevate the three subfamilies to family status.[6][7] In spite of the word "kingfisher" in their English vernacular names, many of these birds are not specialist fish-eaters; none of the species in Halcyoninae are.[8]

The centre of kingfisher diversity is the Australasian region, but the group is not thought to have originated there. Instead, they originated in the Indomalayan region around 27 million years ago and invaded the Australasian region a number of times.[9] Fossil kingfishers have been described from Lower Eocene rocks in Wyoming and Middle Eocene rocks in Germany, around 30–40 million years ago. More recent fossil kingfishers have been described in the Miocene rocks of Australia (5–25 million years old). Several fossil birds have been erroneously ascribed to the kingfishers, including Halcyornis, from the Lower Eocene rocks in Kent, which has also been considered a gull, but is now thought to have been a member of an extinct family.[10]

Amongst the three subfamilies, the Alcedininae are basal to the other two subfamilies. The few species found in the Americas, all from the subfamily Cerylinae, suggest that the sparse representation in the Western Hemisphere resulted from just two original colonising events. The subfamily is a comparatively recent split from the Halcyoninae, diversifying in the Old World as recently as the Miocene or Pliocene.[1]

Description

The smallest species of kingfisher is the African dwarf kingfisher (Ispidina lecontei), which averages 10 cm (3.9 in) in length and between 9 and 12 g (0.32 and 0.42 oz) in weight.[11] The largest kingfisher in Africa is the giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima), which is 42 to 46 cm (17 to 18 in) in length and 255–426 g (9.0–15.0 oz) in weight.[12] The familiar Australian kingfisher known as the laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is the heaviest species with females reaching nearly 500 grams (18 oz) in weight.[13]

The plumage of most kingfishers is bright, with green and blue being the most common colours. The brightness of the colours is neither the product of iridescence (except in the American kingfishers) or pigments, but is instead caused by the structure of the feathers, which causes scattering of blue light (the Tyndall effect).[14] In most species, no overt differences between the sexes exist; when differences occur, they are quite small (less than 10%).[10]

The kingfishers have long, dagger-like bills. The bill is usually longer and more compressed in species that hunt fish, and shorter and more broad in species that hunt prey off the ground. The largest and most atypical bill is that of the shovel-billed kookaburra, which is used to dig through the forest floor in search of prey. They generally have short legs, although species that feed on the ground have longer tarsi. Most species have four toes, three of which are forward-pointing.

The irises of most species are dark brown. The kingfishers have excellent vision; they are capable of binocular vision and are thought in particular to have good colour vision. They have restricted movement of their eyes within the eye sockets, instead using head movements to track prey. In addition, they are capable of compensating for the refraction of water and reflection when hunting prey underwater, and are able to judge depth under water accurately. They also have nictitating membranes that cover the eyes to protect them when they hit the water; the pied kingfisher has a bony plate which slides across the eye when it hits the water.[10]

Distribution and habitat

The kingfishers have a cosmopolitan distribution, occurring throughout the world's tropical and temperate regions. They are absent from the polar regions and some of the world's driest deserts. A number of species have reached islands groups, particularly those in the south and east Pacific Ocean. The Old World tropics and Australasia are the core areas for this group. Europe and North America north of Mexico are very poorly represented, with only one common kingfisher (common kingfisher and belted kingfisher, respectively), and a couple of uncommon or very local species each: (ringed kingfisher and green kingfisher in the southwestern United States, pied kingfisher and white-throated kingfisher in southeastern Europe). The six species occurring in the Americas are four closely related green kingfishers in the genus Chloroceryle and two large crested kingfishers in the genus Megaceryle. Even tropical South America has only five species plus the wintering belted kingfisher. In comparison, the African country of the Gambia has eight resident species in its 120-by-20-mile (193 by 32 km) area.[10]

Individual species may have massive ranges, like the common kingfisher, which ranges from Ireland across Europe, North Africa, and Asia as far as the Solomon Islands in Australasia, or the pied kingfisher, which has a widespread distribution across Africa and Asia. Other species have much smaller ranges, particularly insular species which are endemic to single small islands. The Kofiau paradise kingfisher is restricted to the island of Kofiau off New Guinea.[10]

Kingfishers occupy a wide range of habitats. While they are often associated with rivers and lakes, over half the world's species are found in forests and forested streams. They also occupy a wide range of other habitats. The red-backed kingfisher of Australia lives in the driest deserts, although kingfishers are absent from other dry deserts like the Sahara. Other species live high in mountains, or in open woodland, and a number of species live on tropical coral atolls. Numerous species have adapted to human-modified habitats, particularly those adapted to woodlands, and may be found in cultivated and agricultural areas, as well as parks and gardens in towns and cities.[10]

Behaviour and ecology

Diet and feeding

Kingfishers feed on a wide variety of prey. They are most famous for hunting and eating fish, and some species do specialise in catching fish, but other species take crustaceans, frogs and other amphibians, annelid worms, molluscs, insects, spiders, centipedes, reptiles (including snakes), and even birds and mammals. Individual species may specialise in a few items or take a wide variety of prey, and for species with large global distributions, different populations may have different diets. Woodland and forest kingfishers take mainly insects, particularly grasshoppers, whereas the water kingfishers are more specialised in taking fish. The red-backed kingfisher has been observed hammering into the mud nests of fairy martins to feed on their nestlings.[15] Kingfishers usually hunt from an exposed perch; when a prey item is observed, the kingfisher swoops down to snatch it, then returns to the perch. Kingfishers of all three families beat larger prey on a perch to kill the prey and to dislodge or break protective spines and bones. Having beaten the prey, it is manipulated and then swallowed.[10] The shovel-billed kookaburra uses its massive, wide bill as a shovel to dig for worms in soft mud.

Breeding

Kingfishers are territorial, some species defending their territories vigorously. They are generally monogamous, although cooperative breeding has been observed in some species and is quite common in others,[10] for example the laughing kookaburra, where helpers aid the dominant breeding pair in raising the young.[16]

Like all Coraciiformes, the kingfishers are cavity nesters, with most species nesting in holes dug in the ground. These holes are usually in earth banks on the sides of rivers, lakes or man-made ditches. Some species may nest in holes in trees, the earth clinging to the roots of an uprooted tree, or arboreal nests of termites (termitarium). These termite nests are common in forest species. The nests take the form of a small chamber at the end of a tunnel. Nest-digging duties are shared between the genders . During the initial excavations, the bird may fly at the chosen site with considerable force, and birds have injured themselves fatally while doing this. The length of the tunnels varies by species and location; nests in termitariums are necessarily much shorter than those dug into the earth, and nests in harder substrates are shorter than those in soft soil or sand. The longest tunnels recorded are those of the giant kingfisher, which have been found to be 8.5 m (28 ft) long.[10]

The eggs of kingfishers are invariably white and glossy. The typical clutch size varies by species; some of the very large and very small species lay as few as two eggs per clutch, whereas others may lay 10 eggs, the typical is around three to six eggs. Both sexes incubate the eggs. The offspring of the kingfisher usually stay with the parents for 3–4 months.[10]

Status and conservation

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The rufous-collared kingfisher is categorised as near-threatened due to the rapid loss of its rainforest habitat.

A number of species are considered threatened by human activities and are in danger of extinction. The majority of these are forest species with limited distribution, particularly insular species. They are threatened by habitat loss caused by forest clearance or degradation and in some cases by introduced species. The Marquesan kingfisher of French Polynesia is listed as critically endangered due to a combination of habitat loss and degradation caused by introduced cattle, and possibly due to predation by introduced species.[17]

Relationship with humans

Kingfishers are generally shy birds, but in spite of this, they feature heavily in human culture, generally due to the large head supporting its powerful mouth, their bright plumage, or some species' interesting behavior.

For the Dusun people of Borneo, the Oriental dwarf kingfisher is considered a bad omen, and warriors who see one on the way to battle should return home. Another Bornean tribe considers the banded kingfisher an omen bird, albeit generally a good omen.[10]

The sacred kingfisher, along with other Pacific kingfishers, was venerated by the Polynesians, who believed it had control over the seas and waves.

Modern taxonomy also refers to the winds and sea in naming kingfishers after a classical Greek myth. The first pair of the mythical-bird Halcyon (kingfishers) were created from a marriage of Alcyone and Ceyx. As gods, they lived the sacrilege of referring to themselves as Zeus and Hera. They died for this, but the other gods, in an act of compassion, made them into birds, thus restoring them to their original seaside habitat. In addition, special "halcyon days" were granted. These are the seven days on either side of the winter solstice when storms shall never again occur for them. The Halcyon birds' "days" were for caring for the winter-hatched clutch (or brood), but the phrase "Halcyon days" also refers specifically to an idyllic time in the past, or in general to a peaceful time.The kingfishers tribe is called the "first one color."

Various kinds of kingfishers and human cultural artifacts are named after the couple, in reference to this metamorphosis myth:

Not all the kingfishers are named in this way. The etymology of kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is obscure; the term comes from "king's fisher", but why that name was applied is not known.[18]

References

  1. ^ a b Moyle, Robert G (2006). "A molecular phylogeny of kingfishers (Alcedinidae) with insights into early biogeographic history" (PDF). Auk. 123 (2): 487–499. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2006)123[487:AMPOKA]2.0.CO;2..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Rollers, ground rollers & kingfishers". World Bird List Version 7.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  3. ^ Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel (1815). Analyse de la nature ou, Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés (in French). Palermo: Self-published. p. 66.
  4. ^ Bock 1994, pp. 145, 252.
  5. ^ Bock 1994, p. 118.
  6. ^ Sibley, Charles G.; Monroe, Burt L. Jr (1990). Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-04969-5.
  7. ^ Christidis, Les; Boles, Walter (2008). Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. Collingwood, VIC, Australia: CSIRO. pp. 168–171. ISBN 978-0-643-09602-8.
  8. ^ Fry, Fry & Harris 1992, p. 8.
  9. ^ Andersen, M.J.; McCullough, J.M.; Mauck III, W.M.; Smith, B.T.; Moyle, R.G. (2017). "A phylogeny of kingfishers reveals an Indomalayan origin and elevated rates of diversification on oceanic islands". Journal of Biogeography: 1–13. doi:10.1111/jbi.13139.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Woodall, Peter (2001). "Family Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jordi. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 6, Mousebirds to Hornbills. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 103–187. ISBN 978-84-87334-30-6.
  11. ^ Fry, Fry & Harris 1992, pp. 195–196.
  12. ^ Fry, Fry & Harris 1992, pp. 231–232.
  13. ^ Fry, Fry & Harris 1992, pp. 133–136.
  14. ^ Bancroft, Wilder; Chamot, Emile M.; Merritt, Ernest; Mason, Clyde W. (1923). "Blue feathers" (PDF). The Auk. 40 (2): 275–300. doi:10.2307/4073818.
  15. ^ Schulz, M (1998). "Bats and other fauna in disused Fairy Martin Hirundo ariel nests". Emu. 98 (3): 184–191. doi:10.1071/MU98026.
  16. ^ Legge, S.; Cockburn, A. (2000). "Social and mating system of cooperatively breeding laughing kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae)". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 47 (4): 220–229. doi:10.1007/s002650050659.
  17. ^ Birdlife International (2009). "Todiramphus godeffroyi". Red List. IUCN. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
  18. ^ Douglas Harper (2001). "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-07-14.

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Kingfisher: Brief Summary

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 src= The paradise kingfishers of New Guinea have unusually long tails for the group.  src= The kookaburra has a birdcall which sounds like laughter.  src= Like many forest-living kingfishers, the yellow-billed kingfisher often nests in arboreal termite nests.  src= The Oriental dwarf kingfisher is considered a bad omen by warriors of the Dusun tribe of Borneo.  src= Forest Kingfisher in Kakadu National Park

Kingfishers or Alcedinidae are a family of small to medium-sized, brightly colored birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species found outside the Americas. The family contains 114 species and is divided into three subfamilies and 19 genera. All kingfishers have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. Most species have bright plumage with only small differences between the sexes. Most species are tropical in distribution, and a slight majority are found only in forests. They consume a wide range of prey usually caught by swooping down from a perch. While kingfishers are usually thought to live near rivers and eat fish, many species live away from water and eat small invertebrates. Like other members of their order, they nest in cavities, usually tunnels dug into the natural or artificial banks in the ground. Some kingfishers nest in arboreal termite nests. A few species, principally insular forms, are threatened with extinction. In Britain, the word "kingfisher" normally refers to the common kingfisher.

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