Interesting And Fun Facts About Kingfisher Birds For Kids
Here are some interesting kingfisher bird facts for kids —different types of kingfishers, their physical features, what they eat, where they live, nesting habits, lifespan and other information.
By Dr Shyam Kumar • 14 min read
If you are on a forest trek or near a river, there is a good chance that you will notice a beautiful kingfisher bird diving into the water and coming out with a tiny fish in its beak. As it darts across the river, its shimmering blue and orange plumage will make it stand out against the green backdrop of the forest.
If your children are with you, then you can expect some curious questions about this tiny bird. It would be wise to brush up your information on the kingfisher bird to handle such a situation.
So, here are some interesting kingfisher facts for kids including the different types of kingfishers, their habitat, their physical features, eating habits and other trivia. Also see some beautiful kingfisher images.
Kingfisher facts for kids
- Ram Chirayia or Kilkila is the name for the kingfisher in Hindi.
- These are small to medium-sized birds with large heads, massive bills, short tails, and a bright plumage.
- The kingfisher birds belong to the order Coraciiformes and family Alcedinidae.
- There are between 90 and 110 species of kingfishers in the world. A majority of these birds can be found across Europe, Africa and Asia.
- While most of these birds inhabit the tropical forests feeding on small invertebrates, only some species live near rivers or along water bodies.
Different types of kingfishers
The Alcedinidae family is further divided into three subfamilies — Alcedininae, Cerylidae and Halcyonidae.
1. The river kingfishers (Alcedininae)
- The kingfisher birds in this group are small birds with a bright coloured plumage. They have large heads, long bills and stubby tails.
- Distribution: These birds are commonly found in Africa, parts of east and south Asia and across Australia. Some of these birds are only found inhabiting islands in the western Pacific.
- Habitat/nesting: The river kingfishers mainly inhabit wet rainforests and woodlands and are not always associated with aquatic habitats. These territorial birds typically dig burrows on riverbanks and lay eggs in them.
- Food/eating habits: While some species of river kingfishers mostly hunt for fishes, reptiles and frogs in the dense undergrowth and along the edge of forested streams, there are others which eat aquatic insects, crustaceans, tine larvae and spiders.
Here is a list of kingfisher species in the Alcedininae family:
Common kingfisher, banded kingfisher, azure kingfisher, blue-eared kingfisher, Bismarck kingfisher, Blyth's kingfisher, Cerulean or small blue kingfisher, half-collared kingfisher, shining-blue kingfisher, great-billed or black-billed kingfisher, stork-billed kingfisher, brown-winged kingfisher, pygmy kingfisher, dwarf kingfisher, white-bellied kingfisher, Malagasy kingfisher, Malachite kingfisher, Madagascan kingfisher, silvery kingfisher, rufous-backed kingfisher and little kingfisher
2. The water kingfishers (Cerylidae)
- Distribution: The water kingfishers can be widely found in the tropical regions of Europe, Africa and Asia. The Amazon kingfisher species inhabits the lowlands of South America.
- Habitat/nesting: These birds predominantly live in different types of aquatic habitats, mostly near rivers, lakes, streams as well as near swamps and wetlands. These birds dig nesting tunnels on riverbanks which are horizontal and up to a metre long.
- Food/eating habits: These birds are known as water kingfishers as they are mainly fish eaters. They perch silently on a branch and abruptly plunge into the water headfirst and come up with a fish or tadpole in their beak.
Here is a list of different kingfisher species in the Cerylidae family:
Green kingfisher, green and rufous kingfisher, pied kingfisher, Amazon kingfisher, pygmy kingfisher, belted kingfisher, Himalayan pied or crested kingfisher, giant kingfisher and ringed kingfisher
3. The tree kingfishers (Halcyonidae)
- Most species of kingfisher birds are classified as tree kingfishers or wood kingfishers including the various kookaburra species. The kookaburra is a very large Australian kingfisher that feeds on terrestrial prey such as lizards, snakes and mice.
- Like the water and river kingfishers, the tree kingfishers are large-headed, short-tailed and have a prominent long beak.
- Distribution: They are believed to have originated in India, Southeast Asia and China from where they spread to different parts of the world. Today they can be found in the tropical woodlands and rainforests of Africa, and some islands in the Pacific and Indian ocean.
- Habitat/nesting: The tree kingfishers make nests in either tree holes or termite nests. Some tend to occupy old woodpecker nests or make burrows in soft or rotting trees.
- Food/eating habits: They prey mostly on worms, insects and spiders. They adopt a wait and watch approach, and silently swoop in on their prey. Some species like the shovel-billed kookaburra hunt for worms by digging through leaf litter.
Here is a list of different kingfisher species and kookaburra species in the Halcyonidae family:
Hombron’s or blue-capped kingfisher, black-capped kingfisher, rusty-capped or Palau kingfisher, moustached kingfisher, collared kingfisher, scaly-breasted kingfisher, red-breasted kingfisher, white-throated or white-breasted kingfisher, blue-breasted kingfisher, spotted kingfisher, white-rumped or glittering kingfisher, Celebes flat-billed or lilac kingfisher, brown-hooded kingfisher, gray-headed kingfisher, Javan kingfisher, mangrove kingfisher, ruddy kingfisher, striped kingfisher, woodland kingfisher, hook-billed kingfisher, mountain kingfisher, yellow-billed kingfisher, paradise kingfisher, beach kingfisher, blue-back kingfisher, red-backed kingfisher, green-backed kingfisher, chocolate-backed kingfisher, sacred kingfisher, ultramarine kingfisher, chattering kingfisher, chestnut-bellied or Vanuatu kingfisher, banded kingfisher, flat-billed kingfisher, forest kingfisher, Guam kingfisher, Lazuli kingfisher, Mangareva kingfisher, Mariana kingfisher, Marquesas kingfisher, Torresian kingfisher, Talaud kingfisher, Sombre kingfisher, Tahiti kingfisher, Pacific kingfisher, Niau kingfisher, New Britain or white-mantled kingfisher, Mewing kingfisher, Melanesian kingfisher, Shovel-billed kookaburra, blue-winged kookaburra, laughing kookaburra, rufous-bellied kookaburra and spangled kookaburra
Physical features and other kingfisher facts
- Size: The largest kingfisher, the laughing kookaburra weighs about 300g and measures 40 to 45cm in length with a wingspan of 55 to 65cm. The smallest one, the African dwarf kingfisher weighs about 10 to 12g and is about 10cm in length.
- Head: The kingfisher can keep its head stationery when focussing on prey even if its body is bobbing around, for example, while perched on a fluttering branch or while hovering above the water. It makes its dive only after gauging the position of the prey by keeping its gaze steady.
- Eyes: The kingfisher bird can see colours distinctly. The vision is very well developed with accurate depth perception. On hitting the water, the eyes are protected by the nictitating membrane (a translucent third eyelid present in birds).
- Beak: The kingfisher’s beak is about 4cm long, pointed and dagger-shaped. This aerodynamic shape allows it to dive into water at a great speed without creating a splash. It is disproportionately large compared to the size of its body but well-designed to capture prey. Once the kingfisher bird catches its prey in its bill, it either stabs it or beats it on the perch or on the ground to shatter the bones. Then it swallows the fish head first.
- Feet: The short strong feet of the kingfisher support it while perching on branches. It has three toes in front and one behind which not only help in clutching its prey but also gives it a good grip on branches while hunting for food.
- Plumage: The kingfisher has a prominent plumage with striking splotches, bands or stripes of colour on its feathers. Different species sport a variety of colours — green, bright blue, gold, chestnut, turquoise, azure or brown. Some species sport a crest on their head.
- Wings: The kingfisher can hover over water by flapping its wings rapidly and can fly very swiftly. While diving for food, it folds its wings backward in a V-shape and submerges completely in the water.
Breeding and nesting behaviour
- The kingfisher bird is generally monogamous and highly territorial.
- The male kingfisher and the female together dig the nests with their feet. It takes about four to seven days to dig a three to six feet long burrow that slopes upwards and ends in a nesting chamber.
- Once the female lays the eggs and the fledglings are born, the parents bring food all the way into the nesting chamber to feed the babies. This is because baby kingfisher birds are ‘altricial’ which means they are immobile, lack any feathers, and are unable to survive on their own.
- After some days, the chicks move to the entrance of the nest where they wait to be fed by the parents. Eventually, the juveniles leave the nest on being able to fly and catch prey on their own.
- Lifespan: About 6 to 14 years depending on the species.
Fun facts about the kingfisher
- The kingfisher’s beak was the source of inspiration for aviation engineer Eiji Nakatsu, in improving the design of the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train.
- Kingfishers are distributed across all the continents except Antarctica.
- The female kingfishers are more colourful than the males.
- Many kingfishers eat prey which seem too large to fit in their mouths.
- Kingfishers can achieve a flight speed of 60 to 70kmph while pursuing their prey.
- The laughing kookaburra is the largest species of kingfisher in the world. It gets its name from its loud characteristic call which sounds like laughter.
- The Guam kingfisher (Todiramphus cinnamominus) is extinct in the wild. It is among the most endangered species in the world with only 140 living birds left.
- The kingfisher was a symbol of peace, prosperity and love in ancient times.
- The Greek name for the kingfisher bird is halcyon, named after the Greek goddess Alcyone.
- In Greek mythology, lovers Alcyone and Ceyx were transformed to kingfishers (halcyon birds) by the Greek god Zeus to atone for his action resulting in the tragic end of the couple.
- Kingfishers were once revered by the Polynesians as they were believed to have influence over the ocean and waves.
- In Irish, the kingfisher is referred to as ‘cruidin’ which means little hunchback referring to its hunched posture.
About the author:
Written by Dr Shyam Kumar on 11 March 2020
The author holds a degree in Homoeopathy with an MBA in Hospital Management and has worked across multiple disciplines including healthcare and technology. As a nature lover, he attended the world's first underwater CEO's conference to combat marine pollution.
Looking for expert tips and interesting articles on parenting? Subscribe now to our magazine. Connect with us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
Join our Circles to share, discuss and learn from fellow parents and experts!
More For You
More for you
Pista Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts And...
Health benefits of pista nuts (low in calories and high in protein) make them the top choice for ...
Dr Shyam Kumar • 14 min read
10 Interesting Facts About Cars For Kids
Kids are fascinated by four-wheelers. And does your kid know that there are over a billion cars t...
Ashwin Dewan • 8 min read
Does Your Child Refuse To Be Toilet-Trained?
Do you have a toddler who refuses to be toilet-trained? Make sure that he is ready for it before ...
Amrita Gracias • 11 min read