Common Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher    Alcedo atthis

Etymology :

  • Alcedo : Latin word for Kingfisher
  • Atthis : Greek mythology -handsome, richly dressed Indian youth and son of Limniace, nymph of the Ganges

 Vernacular Names : Baluchistan: Narian shid, Hindi: Chhota kilkila, Nita/Nika machhrala, Sans: Laghu meen rank, Kash: Kola tonch, Chhota tont, Tuntu, Pun: Chhota machhera, Bi: Shareefan, Ben: Chhota machhranga, Cachar: Dao natu kashiba, Lepcha: Ung chin, Guj: Lagothi, Nano kalkaliyo, Mar: Dhivar khandya, Kilkila, Samanya Dhivar, Ta: Ponnan kuruvi, Te: Neela buchigadu, Mal: Podi ponman, Kan: Neeli bannada meenchulli, Sinh: Mal pilihuduwa

Distribution in India: Wide spread Resident

Description:Size of 16 cm. The male of the nominate race has rufous loral spot, black eyestripe, rufous ear-coverts, white neck stripe; crown and malar stripe barred blue and black; upperparts and tail brilliant azure-blue, wings dark greenish-blue with paler blue spots; white chin and throat, rufous underparts; bill black, gape red; iris dark brown; legs and feet orange-red. The female is like the male, but lower mandible is orange-red with black tip.

Habitat:It is found in still or gently flowing water with plentiful small fish, and with reeds, rushes or shrubs on the banks for perches, are essential aspects of the habitat. Streams, small rivers, canals and ditches preferred to open waterbodies, but also uses lakes, ponds and flooded gravel pits.

Food Habits: It eats mainly Fish. Also eats aquatic insects, water-bugs,, water beetles , dragonfly nymphs and adults, mayflies , lacewings, stoneflies, caddis flies; also flies, butterflies and moths, amphibians , crayfish, prawns, shrimps and isopods. It perches for long periods, above the water,, periodically turning around and bobbing head and body to gauge distance when food sighted; dives steeply and catches prey below water to maximum depth of 1 m; using its buoyancy and flapping the wings, it rises through water bill first and flies back to its perch, where the fish is held near the tail, beaten against perch several times, then positioned lengthways in bill and swallowed head first; The larger prey given longer and more thorough beating, held by tail and head battered against perch. The prey sometimes become impaled on thorns or wire during beating and may be left. Sometimes takes prey from water surface, and where no perches are available it will hover before diving.

Breeding Habits:They breed in Apr–Jul in Kashmir, in Mar–Jun in North & Central India, in Feb–Sept in South India. They are monogamous. During breeding  territories are defended by calling in flight and by displaying from perch, where they sit quietly, crouched and stretching, swaying body from side to side, or sit very upright with neck outstretched, bill agape and wings drooping, before chasing off an intruder. The male courtship-feeds the female before copulation. The nest usually is in sandy, stone-free streamside bank, quarry, sandpit, peat cutting or earth bank, occasionally in hole in wall, rotten tree stump, concrete tunnel in canal bank, terrestrial termitarium, or burrow of Sand Martin or water vole . Both sexes excavate, taking 7–12 days, tunnel straight, inclined to up to 30°, usually 50–90 cm long, being longer in sandy or loam soil than in stony or clay soil, 5–7 cm wide, ending in nest-chamber 9–17 cm wide and 11 cm high; several nests may be partly excavated until one completed. They lay a clutch 3-10 eggs. Both sexes incubate during day, but only female at night, often 1–2 eggs fail to hatch from the parent’s inability to cover them. Incubating bird sits motionless, facing tunnel, generally produces a pellet, which is broken up with the bill. The incubation period is 19–21 days starting with last or penultimate egg, hatching is synchronous. Both parents feed chicks, Initially bringing small fish 1–2 cm long, later larger fish; chicks up to 10 days old given fish up to 3 cm long in nest-chamber, older chicks fed fish 5–8 cm long in nest-tunnel, each chick fed every 45–50 minutes when small, every 20–25 minutes at 12 days, and every 15–20 minutes at 18 days; nest becomes fouled with faeces and food remains, and adults regularly bathe after feeding .The fledging period is 22–27 days. The adults feed young for one month after fledging.