Kingfishers are small and less often medium-sized birds, with, with rare exceptions, very bright plumage coloration. It is characterized by a large head with a large strong beak, a short neck and, in most cases, a short, straight cut tail. Some species may have a mild crest on the head. The language of kingfishers is underdeveloped. The legs are four-fingered, weak and short, the first and second, third and fourth fingers are spliced for some length. Some kingfishers (genus Seukh) have three-toed limbs.
The fluctuations in the size of kingfishers can be characterized as follows. The dwarf kingfisher of tropical Africa Ispidina picta has a body length of about 10 cm, of which about a third falls on the beak. Kingfishers (genus Dacelo) measure 40-45 cm. Wing length varies from 5-6 to 20 cm in different species.
Kingfishers are very widespread: they are found on all continents, but in the north of Eurasia and North America, in Central Asia, in most of the Arabian Peninsula and in the Sahara, they are not. Most species belong to the eastern hemisphere, while only a few species nest in the western hemisphere. Kingfishers are mainly found in tropical and subtropical countries. In Europe and in the Asian part of the USSR, there is only 1 species, 26 species are known in New Guinea, and 1 species in New Zealand.
Most kingfishers are sedentary, but some species (eg Australian and New Zealand) are migratory. The North American kingfisher Megacerile alcyon overwinters from northwest Alaska to the southern islands of the Caribbean and Trinidad. The sacred kingfisher (Halcyon sancta) flies from South Australia to the islands of Indonesia and the Solomon Islands for the winter.
Kingfishers form pairs, apparently for life. They become sexually mature in the first year of life. They always nest in separate pairs, most often in burrows, sometimes in termite nests.
According to their lifestyle, kingfishers can be subdivided into forest kingfishers and real kingfishers. The former are tropical birds that adhere, as their name suggests, to forests; they are in most cases larger than true kingfishers, and some species are more modestly colored. The latter are smaller in size and more associated with water bodies.
The number of eggs in a clutch ranges from 4 to 8, rarely even 10. Incubation begins after the last egg has been laid. Both members of the couple incubate. The chicks hatch naked, but soon become covered with feathers, which retain the caps at their ends for a long time.
A number of kingfisher species feed on small fish, which the birds catch by throwing themselves into the water. Other species feed on insects, millipedes, tree frogs, and small snakes. The South Asian Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargoris sarepsis) drags chicks from nearby nests of other bird species on occasion.
The family includes 86 species belonging to 12 genera, in addition, there are 7 known species of fossil kingfishers belonging to one genus.
Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a small, brightly colored bird. The upper side of her body is dark blue, with the top of the head in transverse blackish and blue stripes. The stripe under the eye and the ear coverts are buffy. On the sides of the head and neck, a blue stripe with dark streaks extends from the beak. The throat and sides of the neck are white, the sides of the goiter are blue. The ventral side is buffy-red. The tail feathers are blue with black feather trunks. The beak is black, the legs are flesh-red.
The beak of the common kingfisher is long, straight, with a sharply protruding ridge of the beak. The wings are short and wide, the tail is short, straight cut. Wing length 7-8 cm, weight 27-38 g. Males are somewhat larger than females.
The common kingfisher is widespread in Europe (to the north to the southern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula and Leningrad), in Africa to the north of the Sahara, in the southern part of Asia to the north to Lake Baikal and the mouth of the Amur (but in most of Kazakhstan and on Mangyshlak this bird does not exist, it also does not exist. in Arabia). South of Asia, the kingfisher nests on islands as far as New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. In most of the Soviet Union, it is a migratory bird, but in Transcaucasia and southern Turkmenistan, the kingfisher lives a resident.
The kingfisher settles on the steep banks of rivers, streams, lakes, ditches, canals, and generally on water bodies with clear clear water and a quiet current, covered with shrubs and woody vegetation. In the mountains along the lakes, this bird nests up to an altitude of about 2000 m.
Pairs of this species are seasonal; outside the nesting period, the male and female keep separate from each other. Immediately after arrival, which happens in the middle zone of the European part of the USSR in the second half of April - early May, the birds start nesting. The opening of the nesting hole is placed above the water and is almost always hidden by tree branches. Sometimes the nest is at some distance from the water, up to a kilometer. Both male and female dig a hole with their beak, throwing out the dug earth with their paws. Depending on the hardness of the soil, this work takes from 7 to 12 days. During this time, the birds dig out a horizontal passage in the ground with a length of 30 cm to 1 m. At the end of this passage, a wide nesting chamber is made. Once settled, the birds strictly adhere to the chosen place and occupy the hole they made for a number of years.
Like all birds nesting in burrows, kingfishers do not make a real nest.
In a freshly dug burrow, eggs are laid directly on bare ground, sometimes on a small bed made of dry grass. In the old nest, the litter is formed from crushed fish debris (bones, scales), beetle elytra, etc. gradually accumulating there. Kingfisher burrows are very dirty, they are swarming with fly larvae and emit a strong unpleasant odor.
Most often, kingfishers lay 6-7 eggs, sometimes less - 5 and 4, sometimes more, even up to 10. They are white, shiny, almost round in shape.
When all eggs are laid, the birds begin to incubate. They sit alternately for 21 days. Chicks hatch naked, then they have feathers covered with caps, and the chick takes on a somewhat hedgehog-like appearance. Only the female feeds the chicks. The male is located near the nest, but does not take part in feeding the chicks. Having finished raising one brood, which usually happens in mid - late June, the birds begin the second oviposition. This happens in late June - early July.
The common kingfisher feeds mainly on fish no more than 60 mm in size. In addition, it eats insects and other invertebrates, mostly aquatic, in particular dragonfly larvae. Can also eat shellfish, shrimp, earthworms. Little frogs rarely fall prey to our kingfisher.
Often, the common kingfisher sits motionless for a long time on a twig of a bush standing above the water itself or even on a stone protruding from the water and looks out for prey. Often he flies with a piercing cry over the water itself, sometimes stops above the water, quickly flapping his wings. At the same time, it rises and falls in the vertical direction. Seeing the prey, the kingfisher rapidly falls into the water, plunges into it a little and, seizing the fish, carries it in its beak into the hole or returns with it to its observation post.
The places where the common kingfisher makes a nest, and the places where it feeds, can be separated from each other by a distance of 0.5-1 km.
Ruby kingfisher (Seukh rufidorsum) is a small bird, smaller than a sparrow, mostly ruby red in color, including a strong beak and legs. The belly is saffron yellow, the throat and two spots on each side of the head behind the ear are white. This bird is common on the Malacca Peninsula, the Greater and Lesser Sunda Islands and the Philippine Islands. The bright plumage of the ruby kingfisher is in sharp contrast to the dark green of the forest in which it lives, where only a ray of sun hits the ground in places. He usually settles near some forest stream. It sits motionlessly on a twig protruding from the water or on hanging vines and waits for prey. Noticing the prey, it quickly rushes to it and grabs small crustaceans, fish, insects (and their larvae) in the water. On occasion, he catches flying dragonflies.From time to time it changes its vantage point, swiftly sweeps to another place and looks exceptionally bright when it crosses a ray of the sun that penetrates the earth.
It digs burrows up to 60 cm long in sandy-clayey shores. Unlike other kingfishers, ruby, like all representatives of the Seuh genus, has three, not four fingers.
Striped kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella) lives in the dense forests of Java, Sumatra and the Malacca Peninsula and settles both near and far from rivers. Accordingly, its nests are located in burrows of coastal cliffs and in large spherical nests of tree termites.
The striped kingfisher differs from other species of the family by a pronounced difference in the color of the plumage of males and females. The male is generally blue with narrow transverse black stripes (reminiscent of the wing coloring of a jay). The top of the head is cobalt blue, the sides of the head are reddish-red, the bottom of the body is dirty-buffy. The beak is red. The female is generally brown with black stripes, which are also present on the head. The throat is white in both sexes.
The striped kingfisher is very different from other kingfishers in the way it searches for food. He often keeps on the ground or on the felled trunks of trees and pecks small lizards, centipedes, cockroaches there, chooses insects living there from the mossy wood.
Galatea (Tanisiptera galatea) belongs to the genus rocket-tailed kingfishers (Tanisiptera), having a very long, stepped tail with a highly elongated middle pair of tail feathers. This is a beautiful bird, the plumage of which consists of a combination of different shades of blue, white and black. The top of the head is cobalt blue, the back and wings are dark blue, the tail is light blue with white oblong spots. Uppertail is white, beak is red. Primary flight feathers are blackish.
The tail, like all rocket-tailed kingfishers, is long, sharply stepped.
The middle pair of tail feathers extends far (by about 2/3 of its length) beyond the tail edge. Almost along the entire length of the middle tail feather, its fan is narrow, light blue; at the very end, the feather expands in the form of a snow-white flag. The total length of the bird (with the tail) is about 40 cm; the tail accounts for 2/3 of this value. The female does not differ in color from the male, but her tail is somewhat shorter.
The Galatea kingfisher is a pure forest dweller. When it starts nesting, it makes depressions in the buildings of arboreal termites, in which it lays its eggs. The fact that then small white insects (termites) run all over the nest, and then over the chicks, does not seem to bother the bird at all.
Another species of rocket-tail kingfishers - australian rocket tail kingfisher (T. sylvia) is interesting because it winters in New Guinea. Returning then to their nesting sites in November, these kingfishers cross the sea in small flocks at night and reach the saving coast of Australia in complete exhaustion. In the event that a storm breaks out at this time, hundreds of birds perish in the waves.
Kingfisher (Clytoceyx geh) is one of the largest species of kingfishers (its length is about 45 cm), inhabiting the mountain forests of New Guinea. It has a short and wide scoop beak with slightly curved edges of the beak and mandible. Above the bird is reddish-brown, below it is grayish-red, its throat is white. With its somewhat anomalous beak for kingfishers, the kingfisher digs out worms from the soil. However, T. Iredal, a connoisseur of the bird fauna of New Zealand, says that this kingfisher feeds on crabs in mangroves. That is what he calls this bird - the crab-eating kingfisher.
Laughing Kingfisher (Dacelo gigas) is a very large bird, only slightly inferior in size to the kingfisher. The plumage is dominated by off-white, gray and brown tones. The laughing kingfisher inhabits the eastern part of Australia and New Guinea, and has recently been resettled by humans to the western parts of Australia. The laughing kingfisher betrays its presence with loud cries, reminiscent of laughter, hence the name.These are noisy birds, they are especially noisy in the evenings, when they go to spend the night on the tops of trees, and at dawn. At this time, a kind of ridiculous chorus of their voices is heard.
The laughing kingfisher eats mainly reptiles, in particular snakes, which it grabs behind its head and kills, throwing them down from a height. In other cases, he drags the snake with him, beats it many times with his beak and then swallows it. Sometimes a laughing kingfisher can drag a chick from someone else's nest for food.
The local population patronizes these birds and strives to have them around them.