Common kingfisher

Alcedo atthis

SUBFAMILY

Alcedininae

TAXONOMY

Gracula atthis Linnaeus, 1758, Egypt. Seven subspecies. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: European/Eurasian kingfisher; French: Martin-pêcheur d'Europe; German: Eisvogel; Spanish: Martin Pescador Común.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

6 in (16 cm), 0.7-1.6 oz (20-46 g). Small kingfisher, typical of genus, blue-green above, rufous below and on cheeks and forehead, white throat and spot on neck. Bill black (male) or red below (female), feet red.

DISTRIBUTION

Resident across mainland Europe, northern Africa, Asia, New Guinea and adjacent islands, breeding summer migrant to about 55o N across Palearctic, non-breeding winter migrant mainly to Middle East and islands of tropical southeastern Asia.

HABITAT

Rivers with vegetation along banks, less often lakes and dams, more coastal during non-breeding season.

BEHAVIOR

Largely aquatic. Perches inconspicuously, usually low above the water. Often turns around on perch to extend search area, bobs head when sights prey. Sings with whistles and warbles, shrill two-note screech in flight.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet mainly small fish, augmented with some aquatic crustacea, insects and frogs. Dives underwater from perch, to depths up to 3 ft (1 m). Rarely hovers, hawks insects, or follows otters to obtain food.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Both sexes territorial, and monogamous pair excavates nest tunnel into earth bank, 22-54 in (15-137 cm) long depending on soil conditions. Rarely use rotten wood or disused burrow of another animal. Breed during austral summer. Lay 3-10 eggs, incubation 19-21 days, shared by day female by night. Nestling period 23-27 days, chicks fed by both parents at maximum average rate of three to four items per hour.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Widespread and common, at densities up to four pairs/0.6 mi (four pair/km) on river, but some local problems with polluted or altered river courses.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Depletes stock on angling rivers or in fish ponds, sometimes persecuted. ♦

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