The kingfisher to observe along our rivers and bodies of water


The kingfisher is easily recognized by its beautiful colors blue and orange as well as its straight beak cut in the shape of a dagger. As the name suggests, the bird piscivorous is an outstanding fisherman.

Two kinds of kingfisher

The kingfisher is a small piscivorous bird with turquoise and orange plumage, living near water in the regions tropical and temperate of the globe. It belongs to the family of Alcedinidae, strong of 19 genera and 118 species, and itself brings together 22 species divided into two genera: Ceyx and Alcedo. The size of its representatives is small to medium: the smallest, the African red-headed kingfisher (Ceyx lecontei) does not exceed 10 cm when the bigger, Blyth’s kingfisher (Alcedo hercules), living in Malaysia, reaches 22 cm.

The Kingfisher’s Dagger Beak

The kingfisher is easily recognized by its beautiful colors. The upperparts, mantle to uppertail, show blue turquoise which contrast with the reddish-orange of the underparts. Her throat is cream colored. The kingfisher owns along pointed beak and strong characteristic of piscivorous birds. Shaped like a dagger, it is an effective weapon for capturing prey. Its vermilion-red legs, very small and flanked by partially welded toes, prevent them from walking on the ground. The sexual dimorphism is lightly marked.

Transparent waters for the kingfisher

The kingfisher colonizes the regions of the old world : Eurasia (from the Atlantic to the Pacific) and Africa. In Europe, the kingfisher is a partial migrant and in France, the nesters are mainly sedentary and joined in winter by their congeners from central and northern Europe. The kingfisher frequents living or stagnant waters – lakes, rivers, streams, ponds – as soon as they are full of fish and sufficient clear to facilitate its fishing. He chooses shores with vegetation and observation posts (branches, poles) facilitating the location of its prey.

The kingfisher, fish lover

Mainly piscivorous, the kingfisher likes all kinds of fish provided they are of small size (3 to 7 cm maximum) such as tench, carp, roach, minnow or their fry. As the food spectrum varies depending on the habitat occupied, some species consume young batrachians, lizards, shrimps, crayfish, as well as aquatic insects.

Kingfisher: a fishing ace

The bird takes its name from its hunting technique consisting in watching for its targets and poking at them. Concretely, it locates its preys from a roost or by hovering then it dives rapidly and flaps the wings back on impact with the surface. Can go up to one meter underwater, it grabs the fish with its beak and with a powerful flick of its wings, instantly resurfaces to reach its promontory. If the prey is small, it swallows it directly and if it is too large, it swallows it.stuns against its perch before swallowing it. The bird regularly regurgitates the hard parts (bones, scales, bones) of animals consumed in the form of balls.

The nest at the end of the galleries

The breeding season varies depending on its distribution. In Europe, it is held in spring and summer (from March to July). The courtship ritual is marked by noisy aerial pursuits and offerings : the female makes her choice of partner known by accepting the fish offered to her. From this moment, the male continues to feed his sweetheart so that she can devote herself entirely to reproduction. For nesting, the kingfisher is cave : it nests in a lodge left vacant and located on the bank of a stream. If no pre-existing burrows are available, the couple pecks some sort of galleries up to a meter long and at the end of which the nest is placed. The refuge is positioned high enough in the bank to escape the floods.

Kingfisher: attentive parents

The pair of birds usually breed 2 broods per year, or even 3 or 4, if conditions are favorable or if a brood has been destroyed. The female lays between 5 and 8 eggs that she broods in alternation with the male for about 3 weeks. When they hatch, the young are fed by the two adults with tiny fish. Eating about their weight in food each day, they grow quickly and can leave the nest from 4 weeks. The young remain grouped near the nest and make their first dives a few days after their release. At this time, the female has often engaged a second fertilization and thus leaves the male to take care of the juveniles.

The kingfisher, a widespread species

The hawk and the squirrel falcon are among the predators adult kingfisher while the young still in the nest fall prey to rats, foxes and ermines. If the degradation of its habitat and the pollution of the waters represent a threat to the bird, it is not considered a species in danger in Europe. The kingfisher is classified as “minor concern” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and has benefited from protection since 1981 throughout France. As such, it is not allowed to hunt, kill or capture him. The life expectancy of the kingfisher is 10 to 15 years wild.