Return To Index Page Small [River] Kingfishers Dwarf Kingfishers Home

Interesting to know that there are 3 main types of Kingfishers. The "river" Kingfisher [Alcedinidae],  the "tree" Kingfishers  [Halcyonidae], and  lastly what can be called the "water" Kingfisher [Cerylidae] All together there should be around  90 species of birds which we may classified as the Kingfisher. Under the general term given to Kingfisher then this is one type of bird with variants that can be found throughout the world.

After having mentioned the 3 main types, good to understand that the groupings are not so complex to grasp

For Kingfishers, the Alcedinidae family has two genera [Alcedo & Ceyx]. Members of this grouping are small birds around 15-20 cm in size, the smallest in Malaysia formerly known as the Oriental-Dwarf Kingfisher is only 12 cm.  The Alcedo Kingfishers are mainly piscivorous [feeding mainly on fish], residents in Asia and Africa. Common feature among them are blue upper parts, black and laterally flatten bill. Some the second toe reduced or absent.  Those of the Ceyx species have reddish upperparts and and feed mainly on fishes and small insects. Usually standing upright beside water logged spots waiting to plunge into the water for food. World wide 24 species and South East Asia 6 species

The 2nd group "water" Kingfishers are not found in Malaysia. The Cerylid kingfishers are American Kingfishers. These are all specialist fish-eating species. There are only 6 species and all in America.

,The 3rd and last group are the Halcyonidae. They are the "tree" kingfishers or "wood" kingfishers. Easy to know them as they are what we call the big Kingfishers with bodies around 27-40 cm long. Typical of Kingfishers, they seat upright on visible and exposed location. Very powerful flight and direct to destination. This group form the bulk of Kingfishers in numbers having about 60 species. Apparently this family originates from Indochina and the Malay Archipelago and then spread to many places in Asia and Australia, including the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. World wide 61 species and South East Asia 9 species.

The smallest species of kingfisher is the African Dwarf Kingfisher which averages at 10.4 g and 10 cm (4 inches). The largest overall is the Giant Kingfisher at an average of 355 g (13.5 oz) and 45 cm (18 inches). The most familiar of all is the Laughing Kookaburra of Australia.

Common among Kingfishers are:- Kingfishers have very distinctive body profile. A large and long beak, usually black or red. Equally large head to keep up with the long, sharp, pointed beak but disproportional short legs and stubby tails. They  see well both in air and under water with specially fitted egg-shaped lens, able to focus in the two different environments. Most Kingfishers live near water which gives the wrong impression that they are waiting for fishes. As opposed to its name, most kingfisher feed on insect and lizards, Their favorite perch are along small streams and waterways. Giving the impression that they stay close to places where fishes are plentiful. Of course, there are Kingfisher that thrives on small fishes. Wood kingfishers eat reptiles, frogs, and insects while the river Kingfishers prefers only fishes. Kingfishers of all three families beat their prey to death, either by whipping it against a tree or by dropping it on a stone.

Oh, last point - Common Kingfisher is so named as they are most seen in America but rare in Malaysia.



Common Kingfisher


Alcedo atthis

Blue-eared Kingfisher


Alcedo meninting

Blue-banded Kingfisher


Alcedo euryzona

Black-backed Kingfisher


Ceyx erithaca

Rufous-backed Kingfisher


Ceyx rufidorsa

Banded Kingfisher


Lacedo pulchella

Brown-winged Kingfisher


Pelargopsis amauroptera

Stork-billed Kingfisher


Pelargopsis capensis

Ruddy Kingfisher


Halcyon coromanda

White-throated Kingfisher


Halcyon smyrnensis

Black-capped Kingfisher


Halcyon pileata

Collared Kingfisher


Todiramphus chloris

Sacred Kingfisher


Todiramphus sanctus

Rufous-collared Kingfisher


Actenoides concretus

World wide there 61 species of these large Kingfishers. Of which, 9 species should be available in South East Asia. Of of these 9 species, 8 of them are seen in Malaysia


1. Banded Kingfishers Lacedo pulchella


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 24 Cm. This Kingfisher has short tail, and with it length only on the body the bird appears bulky. The part behind the crown and the nape is blue with black and white markings. The upper part with blue bars and the under part whitish towards warm buff. The front of the crown and the side of the head in chestnut. Bill is usually red.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird of Sumatra, Java and Borneo islands. This is a fairly common bird in Peninsula, though hardly seen.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a bird of the lowland forest with many exceptions. It is a bird of the canopy and stay far away from water. Have forest the bird next to the sea shore before. It is also found in mountains like Bukit TInggi and Awana which is near sub-montane.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird is common in place with original forest and tall ancient trees. Some places that I often go to:- Perdik,  Rengit and Kemensah. But seen often in Bukit Rengit and Awana.
 My personal jottings :-

The first of the "big" Kingfishers, the Banded Kingfisher appeared bulky at 24 cm in size. The bird is heard very often in dense forest. As it chooses the canopy with thick foliages, it hardly spotted. It will remain in that same perch for long period of time at times the male making the loud familiar calls. Another habit of the bird of raising its crown feathers and lowering them in a wave movements. What surprises me is that the bird do descend to lower storey and likewise perched. Most heard in the forest of Congkak and Rengit which are lowland forest. The birds in my pictures are taken in Bukit Tinggi and Awana, both having near sub-montane environment. The bird was also in Cape Richardo [Tanjong Tuan] seen during the Raptor watch, a mangrove forest environment. The call is quite distinctive and easily learnt. This is a resident and should be available throughout the year.


Record of bird's call :-    and Videos:-



Banded Kingfisher [male] # 1

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 2

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 3

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 4

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 5

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 6

 Banded Kingfisher #  7

copulation # 8

Banded Kingfisher [female] # 9

copulation # 10

Banded Kingfisher  [female] # 11

Banded Kingfisher [female] # 12

Banded Kingfisher  [female] # 16

Banded Kingfisher  [male] # 17

Banded Kingfisher  [male] # 18

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 19

Banded Kingfisher [male]  # 20

Banded Kingfisher [male] r # 21

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 22

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 23

Banded Kingfisher [male]  # 24

Banded Kingfisher [male]  # 25

Banded Kingfisher [female] # 26

Banded Kingfisher [male] # 27


2. Black-capped Kingfisher   Halcyon pileata


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 30 Cm. The Black-capped Kingfisher is a good size and fairly large Kingfisher. The bird has a black crown and side of head. It has white throat, collar and breast. Upper part is blue with black wing while the under part is rufous. The bill is red.

 Distribution :-  The bird breeds in India, the Andaman Seas, Southern China, Taiwan and Korea, The bird is a passage migrant in Malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- This is essentially and mangrove forest bird. Staying in the lower storey. Often seen at the coast in open area. Very shy bird and would fly on approach. Seen. very much inland where there are water presence. More likely to be river or ponds.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Seen in certain mangrove forest and not all stretches of mangrove. Must make your own research which are preferred spots where not one but a few birds would be hanging round. meeting the bird inland were accidental but on numerous occasions.
 My personal jottings :-

At 30cm, the Black-capped Kingfisher is a large bird. The bird  is a passage migrant through Malaysia in northern winter. In central peninsula, their presence here is noted to be for a longer period in September/October and once more a much shorter duration in January.

The bird has a preference for Mangrove forest and could appear in good numbers. I have spotted up to 13 birds in a day. This bird also stray into deep forest with waterways. Example in Kemensah beside a small pond and in Raub over a huge river. Far out in the mudflats in Jeram.

I have noticed that over the years, the birds got more sensitive and took flight long before we approach the spot. Its perched on the lower and middle storey, usually fairly open space. It diet in the mangrove forest was good size mud crabs.

Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos:-

Black-capped Kingfisher # 1

Black-capped Kingfisher # 2

Black-capped Kingfisher # 3

Black-capped Kingfisher # 4

Black-capped Kingfisher # 5

Black-capped Kingfisher # 6

Black-capped Kingfisher # 7

Black-capped Kingfisher # 8

Black-capped Kingfisher # 9

Black-capped Kingfisher # 10

Black-capped Kingfisher # 11

Black-capped Kingfisher # 12

Black-capped Kingfisher # 16

Black-capped Kingfisher # 17

Black-capped Kingfisher # 18

Black-capped Kingfisher # 19

Black-capped Kingfisher # 20

Black-capped Kingfisher # 21

Black-capped Kingfisher # 22

Black-capped Kingfisher # 23

Black-capped Kingfisher # 24

Black-capped Kingfisher # 25

Black-capped Kingfisher # 26

Black-capped Kingfisher # 27


3. Brown-winged Kingfishers Pelargopsis amauroptera


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 37 Cm. This is definitely a large Kingfisher at 37 cm. The under part with the head is buff orange brown then the wings and tail in dark brown. The bill is again red.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird of India and Bangladesh. Limited to the island of Langkawai in the northern Peninsula.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird and also a mangrove bird. The bird prefers old branches from matured and old mangrove trees.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:-  In Malaysia, the bird can only be found on the island on Langkawi.
 My personal jottings :-

The Brown-winged Kingfisher at 37 cm is a huge bird. This is an eastern Indian bird also in Bangladesh and now spread down the coast of the Andaman Sea. In Malaysia, only spotted in 2 locations on Langkawai Island.

The bird chooses bare branches or exposed twigs in middle storey to make its call. Perhaps to allow  the loud call heard over longer distances. Not shy bird and limited in numbers, so it hard to meet up with. I don't think it is migratory and therefore should be a resident.

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Brown-winged Kingfisher # 1

Brown-winged Kingfisher # 2

Brown-winged Kingfisher # 3

Brown-winged Kingfisher # 4

Brown-winged Kingfisher # 5


4. Collared Kingfishers Todiramphus chloris


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 25 Cm. The Collared Kingfisher is medium size by Kingfisher's standard.  It has a blue colored head, then mantle, wings to the tail in blue. The under part is white together with the neck. The "white" goes around the neck like a collar where the bird gets its name from.

 Distribution :-  The bird is found in the Middle East, east to India and Bangladesh. The down south to Andaman and the Greater Sundas. A very common bird in the Malaysian mangrove forest, seen and heard.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird and that of the Mangrove forest. Hardly seen inland though on couple of occasions the bird were seen far inland as in Kiara Hills.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- There is no way of not seeing the bird. It is very common and makes loud calls when it fly off.
 My personal jottings :-

The Collared Kingfisher by itself as an individual bird at 25cm appears to be a large bird. This is another very common Kingfisher, this time seen exclusively at the Mangrove forest. They never failed to be present and with their signature call, they brighten up life in the Mangrove forest.

Seeing them that often and without fail at the mangrove forest I assumed that they are local. Now I read that there are too passage migrants. Now I understand why at certain times of the year, there seem to be an increase in numbers of the bird sighted.

The pictures here shows a varying tone of blue, I think this has something to do with the lightings and white balances.

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Collared Kingfisher # 1

Collared Kingfisher # 2

Collared Kingfisher# 3

Collared Kingfisher # 4

Collared Kingfisher # 5

Collared Kingfisher# 6

Collared Kingfisher # 7

Collared Kingfisher # 8

Collared Kingfisher # 9

Collared Kingfisher # 10

Collared Kingfisher # 11

Collared Kingfisher # 12

Collared Kingfisher # 16

Collared Kingfisher # 17

Collared Kingfisher # 18

Collared Kingfisher # 19

Collared Kingfisher # 20

Collared Kingfisher # 21

Collared Kingfisher # 22

Collared Kingfisher # 23

Collared Kingfisher # 24

Collared Kingfisher # 25

Collared Kingfisher # 26

Collared Kingfisher # 27


5. Ruddy Kingfishers  Halcyon coromanda minor


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 27 Cm. This a slim longish Kingfisher. Dark rufous on the upper part and a much lighter shade of rufous, more towards beige on the underpart. the wing patch and the rump has a subtle shade of violet. Red beak, legs and feet.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from the Andaman coast. But distributed over to Sumatra, Java  The borneo island and south west Philippines. The bird is a passage migrant through Peninsula Malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird and that of the Mangrove forest. Or inland island within small lakes. Whatever the birds like, it is dense forest with large patches of flooded forest floor.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird was often seen in Air Itam Dalam up north and also in FRIM in Selangor
 My personal jottings :-

The bird was apprehensive of human presence and stayed in the upper storey. Unlike other bird this Kingfisher would choose an exposed bough and remained in the open position for long hours. Somehow the distance between the bird watchers was very safe. Lately, the bird had descended to the forest floor for food when the place was deserted.

In Frim the habits displayed varied slightly. Couldn't detect the bird most likely among foliages in middle storey but could detect its call. Then it made swift low level flight to the lower storey and picked it prey from the forest floor. Return to its perch in middle storey to finish it. Did not display and fear but very cautious.

This series of picture taken with the bird just feet away from the forest stream. The bird stayed for a very long time waiting for fishes.

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Ruddy Kingfisher # 1

Ruddy Kingfisher # 2

Ruddy Kingfisher# 3

Ruddy Kingfisher # 4

Ruddy Kingfisher # 5

Ruddy Kingfisher# 6

Ruddy Kingfisher # 7

Ruddy Kingfisher # 8

Ruddy Kingfisher # 9

Ruddy Kingfisher # 10

Ruddy Kingfisher # 11

Ruddy Kingfisher # 12

Ruddy Kingfisher # 16

Ruddy Kingfisher # 17

Ruddy Kingfisher # 18

Ruddy Kingfisher # 19

Ruddy Kingfisher # 20

Ruddy Kingfisher # 21

Ruddy Kingfisher # 22

Ruddy Kingfisher # 23

Ruddy Kingfisher # 24

Ruddy Kingfisher # 25

Ruddy Kingfisher # 26


6.Rufous-collared Kingfishers Actenoides concretus


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 25 Cm. Another short tailed Kingfisher, though also at 25 cm long, this bird do not appear bulky, instead with the looks of a medium size bird having a compact body. This is colorful bird with dark blue upper part and a beige under part, starting with a light rufous throat. The near rufous nuchal collar with receding light brown stating from the throat. Interesting would be the long black eye strip that reaches far behind to the nape. Green colored head and thick blue sub-moustachial stripe

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from Sumatra and Borneo islands. This bird is often heard but hardly seen in Peninsula Malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- This another bird of the deep lowland forest preferring the canopy. The forest preferably has a stream or forest nearby. The birds has the habit if remaining still and quiet for long period of time.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Though lowland in nature, I have seen this bird up in the mountains like Frasers Hills and Bukit Tinggi. The easy way to detect its presence would be to wait for its calls.
 My personal jottings :-

Yes, at 25 cm this Rufous-collared Kingfisher is the size of the Collared Kingfisher. Somehow with its short tail, the bird should look bulky but not and also smaller than the slim looking Collared Kingfisher. From the pictures and also the great distances these pictures were taken, it appears like those Dwarf Kingfisher but it is a medium size bird.

Another bird which is a resident but hardly seen but sometimes heard. This bird prefer upper storey and concealed among the foliages. very little is known about this bird other than its unique calls. The pictures were taken in Perdik, thick pristine forest. A very shy bird which is highly territorial, responding to birds calls. However its shyness and wary  of human presence, the bird hardly descend from its high perch. But it would come down to the lower storey for food where the place is deserted.

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 1

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 2

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 3

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 4

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 5

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 6

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 10

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 11

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 12

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 13

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 14

Rufous-collared Kingfisher 15



6. Stork-billed Kingfishers    Pelargopsis capensis


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 41 Cm. Without doubt, this is the largest size of all Kingfishers. It is stout looking bird as well The large red bill is outstanding with the light brown head. Wings and tail blue with the rest of the body in light brown.

 Distribution :-  It is resident in the Indian Sub-continent, South West China, The Sundas and the Philippines. The bird is commonly sighted in the northern part of peninsula Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird of the coastal areas. The bird prefers coastal forest with fresh waters. So it is not confined to the mangrove forest.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Though not often, but the bird could be seen some distances away from the coast. In central peninsula, an extraordinary place, Frim, the birds were often beside the tiny lakes.
 My personal jottings :-

In Perak, where the bird is seen often along the main intercity road. Perched low on the electrical wiring. Once leaving the main road they could be seen at various height, usually middle to the lower storey on trees or sometimes at the low scrubs. The bird show little fear for human presence particularly if they are perched on electrical wire. We could walk around his perch and spent time making pictures.

They are more obvious in the northern states, especially in Perak and more often in the mangrove forest. So if you are around in Kual Gula area, you cannot miss seeing this bird which is in abundance. Here in central area, the bird is common in Kuala Selangor and FRIM of Kuala Lumpur. That lone bird in Frim behave slightly different, normally in middle storey or higher. When we were around, the bird would not stay long and flew away after a couple of minutes.

It is very colorful and prefer open branches, very easy to spot. Sometimes it makes continuous loud calls to the annoyance of the neighborhood. Again another resident that can be spotted throughout the year.

Record of bird's call :-    and Videos:-

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 1

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 2

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 3

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 4

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 5

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 6

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 7

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 8

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 9

Stork-billed Kingfisher # 10

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  11

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  12

Stork-billed Kingfisher #16

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  17

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  18

Stork-billed Kingfisher #19

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  20

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  21

Stork-billed Kingfisher #22

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  23

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  24

Stork-billed Kingfisher #25

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  26

Stork-billed Kingfisher #  27


7. White-throated Kingfishers Halcyon smyrnensis


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 28 Cm. This is a good size Kingfisher and readily available bird in Malaysia. This Kingfisher has two colors when the bird is seen with different perching position. First , when facing the bird, it has  has dark chestnut colored head down to the back of the neck. The neck and the upper part of breast - white. Lower part in dark chestnut. Looks like a brown bird with prominent white throat. When the bird is having its back to the viewer, the bird appear turquoise blue, a dash of dark blue on the wing patch, then with a brown head. This is a bird with light blue color.

 Distribution :-  The area where this bird comes from start from Egypt, Middle east, Indian Sub-continent, southern China, Taiwan, Philippines, Sumatra and Java. mentioned earlier, one of the most common birds in Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is an open country bird, more of the lowlands but are found up in some hills. Seen in large numbers in rice fields.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird in not only the most common Kingfisher but also the one fo the most common birds in Malaysia, so need no further elaboration.
 My personal jottings :-

At 28 cm, this is an average size Kingfisher. The bird existence spread along a belt of land from northern Egypt , Indian Sub-continent, South China down to South east Asia, omitting Thailand.

This is the most welcoming trash bird. Colorful with plenty of calls through out the day and seen in every corner of Malaysia. Welcoming in the sense that on a fruitless birding trip, the bird is likely to be there to keep company. This is such a prolific breeder.


Record of bird's call :-    and Videos:-

White-throated Kingfisher # 1

White-throated Kingfisher # 2

White-throated Kingfisher # 3

White-throated Kingfisher # 4

White-throated Kingfisher # 5

White-throated Kingfisher # 6

White-throated Kingfisher # 7

White-throated Kingfisher # 8

White-throated Kingfisher # 9

White-throated Kingfisher # 10

White-throated Kingfisher # 11

White-throated Kingfisher # 12

White-throated Kingfisher # 16

White-throated Kingfisher # 17

White-throated Kingfisher # 18

Adult Kingfisher # 19

Adult Kingfisher # 20

Juvenile  Kingfisher # 21

Juvenile  Kingfisher # 22

Adult   Kingfisher # 23

Juvenile  Kingfisher # 24

Adult  Kingfisher # 25

Adult   Kingfisher # 26

Adult  Kingfisher # 27


It is certainly interesting to understand the 2 main groups of Kingfishers that we have in this country. The distinctive way how  each species chooses the habitats that they hunt in. We had good details of the food that they take and then knowing the ecosystem in the area added more points about their food sources and hopefully eventually meeting up with them more often.

I am glad that I got quite a fair bit of that understanding and the pictures of the birds. Missing here are the Ruddy Kingfisher and the Black-backed Kingfisher. For these 2 birds, what I am having are inadequate for posting. Of course, for the Brown winged, it is a question of time that I make another trip to the Island to collect my pictures.