Common Kingfishers are among the few Kingfishers that
specialise in fishing. They are well known for plunging into
the water to catch their prey: mainly small fish (60%) and prawns (30%),
although they do pick off crabs and small mudskippers from mudflats.
Common Kingfishers prefer to hunt in shallow water which gives them
Common Kingfishers usually perch on a convenient branch or pole about
1-2m from the water surface. They plunge into the water from their perch
(90%); or hover before diving in (3%). They have keen eyesight with
polarising filters to cut out water reflection and better see their
prey. They also learn to compensate for refraction. When they plunge
into the water, the eyes are protected by a membrane. So they actually
catch their prey blind, relying on touch to decide when to snap their
bills shut. They then fly straight out of the water with their prey in
Before eating a fish, the bird will hold it by its tail and whack it
to death against the perch, particularly fishes with poky fins.
Otherwise, the live fish may extend its fins in the bird's throat,
choking it, sometimes to death. Kingfishers regurgitate pellets of
indigestible fishbone. The birds preen themselves carefully after
fishing to ensure their feathers remain waterproof. Juveniles often
nearly drown because they failed to pay enough attention to preening.
Common Kingfishers are solitary and highly territorial because they
have to eat about 60% of their body weight a day. They fiercely defend
their feeding grounds, even from their mates and offspring. When
contesting territory, they perform a ritual display perched some
distance from each other. This involves displaying feathers and beaks,
accompanied by whistling. Usually the dispute is resolved without actual
combat. But in rare instances, combatants will lock beaks and attempt to
drown each other.
Common Kingfishers nest on steep river banks, or even active termite
mounds, digging out a tunnel that ends in a chamber. 4-8, usually 2,
white eggs are laid, incubated by both parents in 18-21 days. Both
parents raise the young. The chicks fledge in about 23-24 days.
Mortality rates can be as high as 50%.
Migration: Common Kingfishers that breed far north migrate to the
south, usually travelling at night. They may travel past the breeding
grounds of more southerly residents, and go all the way to eastern
Status and threats: The Common Kingfisher is not at risk they are found
near open streams, canals, reservoirs, ponds and along the coasts. They
are usually not found in forests or densely forested streams.