Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Coraciiformes
Family Alcedinidae

Alcedininae or river kingfishers, is a subfamily of kingfishers in the Alcedinidae. The Alcedinidae once included all kingfishers, before the widespread recognition of Halcyoninae (tree kingfishers) and Cerylinae (water kingfishers). The subfamily is widespread through Africa and east and south Asia as far as Australia, with one species, the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) also appearing in Europe and northern Asia. The origin of the family is thought to have been in Asia.

These are brightly plumaged, compact birds with short tails, large heads, and long bills. They feed on insects or fish, and lay white eggs in a self-excavated burrow. Both adults incubate the eggs and feed the chicks.


All kingfishers are short-tailed large-headed compact birds with long pointed bills. Like other Coraciiformes, they are brightly colored. Alcedo species typically have metallic blue upperparts and head, and orange or white underparts. The sexes may be identical, as with Bismarck kingfisher, but most species show some sexual dimorphism, ranging from a different bill color as with common kingfisher to a completely different appearance. The male blue-banded kingfisher has white underparts with a blue breast band, whereas the female has orange underparts.

The small kingfishers that make up the rest of the family have blue or orange upperparts and white or buff underparts, and show little sexual variation. Across the family, the bill colour is linked to diet. The insectivorous species have red bills, and the fish-eaters have black bills.

When perched, kingfishers sit quite upright, and the flight is fast and direct. The call is typically a simple high-pitched squeak, often given in flight.

Distribution and Habitat

Most alcedinids are found in the warm climates of Africa and southern and southeast Asia. Three species reach Australia, but only the common kingfisher is found across most of Europe and temperate Asia. No members of this family are found in the Americas, although the American green kingfishers are believed to have derived from alcedinid stock. The origin of the family is thought to have been in southern Asia, which still has the most species.

The Ceyx and Ispidina species are mainly birds of wet rainforest or other woodland, and are not necessarily associated with water. The Alcedo kingfishers are usually closely associated with fresh water, often in open habitats although some are primarily forest birds.



River kingfishers are monogamous and territorial. The pair excavates a burrow in an earth bank and lays two or more white eggs onto the bare surface. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. Egg laying is staggered at one-day intervals so that if food is short only the older larger nestlings get fed. The chicks are naked, blind and helpless when they hatch, and stand on their heels, unlike any adult bird.


The small Ceyx and Ispidina species feed mainly on insects and spiders, but also take tadpoles, frogs and mayfly nymphs from puddles. The will flycatch, and their bills are red bills are flattened to assist in the capture of insects. The Alcedo kingfishers are typically fish-eaters with black bills, but will also take aquatic invertebrates, spiders and lizards. A few species are mainly insectivorous and have red bills. Typically fish are caught by a dive into the water from a perch, although the kingfisher might hover briefly.


Genus: Alcedo
 Common Kingfisher (Linnaeus, 1758) (Alcedo atthis)
 Cerulean Kingfisher (Vieillot, 1818) (Alcedo coerulescens)
 Blue-banded Kingfisher (Temminck, 1830) (Alcedo euryzona)
 Blyth's Kingfisher (Laubmann, 1917) (Alcedo hercules)
 Blue-eared Kingfisher (Horsfield, 1821) (Alcedo meninting)
 Shining-blue Kingfisher (Bonaparte, 1850) (Alcedo quadribrachys)
 Half-collared Kingfisher (Swainson, 1823) (Alcedo semitorquata)
Genus: Ceyx
 Azure Kingfisher (Latham, 1801) (Ceyx azureus)
 Southern Silvery Kingfisher (Tweeddale, 1877) (Ceyx argentatus)
 Buru Dwarf Kingfisher (Wallace, 1863) (Ceyx cajeli)
 New Georgia Dwarf Kingfisher (Rothschild & Hartert, 1901) (Ceyx collectoris)
 Indigo-banded Kingfisher (Lafresnaye, 1840) (Ceyx cynopectus)
 Manus Dwarf Kingfisher (Rothschild & Hartert, 1914) (Ceyx dispar)
 Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (Linnaeus, 1758) (Ceyx erithaca)
 Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher (Schlegel, 1866) (Ceyx fallax)
 Northern Silvery Kingfisher (Steere, 1890) (Ceyx flumenicola)
 Makira Dwarf Kingfisher (Tristram, 1879) (Ceyx gentianus)
 Moluccan Dwarf Kingfisher (Temminck, 1836) (Ceyx lepidus)
 Malaita Dwarf Kingfisher (Mayr, 1935) (Ceyx malaitae)
 Dimorphic Dwarf Kingfisher (W Blasius, 1890) (Ceyx margarethae)
 North Solomons Dwarf Kingfisher (Rothschild, 1901) (Ceyx meeki)
 Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher (Kaup, 1848) (Ceyx melanurus)
 New Ireland Dwarf Kingfisher (Rothschild & Hartert, 1914) (Ceyx mulcatus)
 Guadalcanal Dwarf Kingfisher Rothschild & Hartert, 1905) (Ceyx nigromaxilla)
 Little Kingfisher (Temminck, 1836) (Ceyx pusillus)
 New Britain Dwarf Kingfisher (EP Ramsay, 1882) (Ceyx sacerdotis)
 Papuan Dwarf Kingfisher (Temminck, 1836) (Ceyx solitarius)
 Sula Dwarf Kingfisher (Sharpe, 1868) (Ceyx wallacii)
 Bismarck Kingfisher (Hartert, 1898) (Ceyx websteri)
Genus: Corythornis
 Malachite Kingfisher (Pallas, 1764) (Corythornis cristatus)
 White-bellied Kingfisher (Fraser, 1843) (Corythornis leucogaster)
 Madagascan Pygmy Kingfisher (Linnaeus, 1766) (Corythornis madagascariensis)
 Malagasy Kingfisher (Eydoux & Gervais, 1836) Corythornis vintsioides)
Genus: Ispidina
 African Dwarf Kingfisher (Cassin, 1856) (Ispidina lecontei)
 African Pygmy Kingfisher (Boddaert, 1783) (Ispidina picta)
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