Common Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher and Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis and Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Cape Nanhui, Shanghai. (Kai Pflug)

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis ranges across temperate and tropical Eurasia, from Great Britain to Solomon Islands. In China, atthis resident Tianshan in Xinjiang and bengalensis across southern, central, southwestern, and eastern China, including Hainan and Taiwan, but in northeast China is breeder only. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Various types of wetland, from coastal marshes to wooded streams and even ponds in inner-city parks. Needs merely perch from which to prepare for next dive and banks suitable for burrow nest. Rarely seen in dense forest and along fast-moving streams. Flight fast, direct, low over water, its short wings beating rapidly. ID & COMPARISON Rufous ear coverts diagnostic. Rear ear coverts white. Metallic blue-green above, with more or less obvious spotting on crown and upper-wing coverts. Brilliant turquoise band extends from upper back to rump and stubby tail. White chin; rest of underparts (as well as under-wing coverts) rufous-orange. Blyth’s Kingfisher A. hercules and Blue-eared Kingfisher A. meninting lack orange band on ear coverts and are deeper rufous below; Blyth’s is darker above than Common and is one-third larger. BARE PARTS Bill long, harpoon-like, all-black in male; lower mandible mostly reddish-orange in female. VOICE Makes thin, high-pitched chee-chee call, often in flight. — Craig Brelsford


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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