Common Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, male showing all-black bill and metallic turquoise plumage, Cape Nanhui, Shanghai, January. Common Kingfisher is a common resident in Shanghai. It occurs throughout the city-province, even the urban core. (Craig Brelsford)
Common Kingfisher
Swallowing fish headfirst, Cape Nanhui, Shanghai, January. (Craig Brelsford)

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, southwest, and eastern China, including Hainan, but in northeast China is breeder only. Resident Taiwan. 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 Thin, high-pitched chee-chee call, often given in flight. — Craig Brelsford

THE KINGFISHERS OF CHINA covers every species of kingfisher in China. Click any link:

Crested Kingfisher
Crested Kingfisher

Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis
Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda
Black-capped Kingfisher H. pileata
White-throated Kingfisher H. smyrnensis
Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris
Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting
Common Kingfisher A. atthis
Blyth’s Kingfisher A. hercules
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca
Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis


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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