Habitats that provide both food and nest sites are essential to all kingfishers. Most kingfishers have the ability to excavate their own nests in soft earth, wood, or termite nests, besides the use of natural cavities, yet nest sites often remain the most limiting resource. Species that feed mainly on aquatic animals extend from arid seashores to small mountain streams, provided that there are earth banks or termite nests into which most species will excavate their nest tunnels. Species that feed on terrestrial prey occur from arid savanna, provided that there are banks or natural tree holes in which to nest, to dense rainforest, with its greater abundance of nest sites. A subjective analysis of the main habitat requirements suggests that 31 species are primarily aquatic, whether they occupy forest or not; 44 species feed mainly in closed-canopy forests; and 17 species are most abundant in wooded savanna. Only aquatic species occur in the New World, while forest-dependant species predominate in Asia and Australasia and savanna species in Africa.

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