Animal Database
Animal Database
White-throated kingfisher.jpg
White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Coraciiformes
Family Alcedinidae

Halcyoninae or tree kingfishers and wood kingfishers, is a subfamily of kingfisher The family appears to have arisen in Indochina and Maritime Southeast Asia and then spread to many areas around the world. Tree kingfishers are widespread through Asia and Australasia, but also appear in Africa and the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, using a range of habitats from tropical rainforest to open woodlands.

The tree kingfishers are short-tailed, large-headed, compact birds with long, pointed bills. Like other Coraciiformes, they are brightly colored. Most are monogamous and territorial, nesting in holes in trees or termite nests. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. Although some tree kingfishers frequent wetlands, none are specialist fish-eaters. Most species dive onto prey from a perch, mainly taking slow-moving invertebrates or small vertebrates.


Tree kingfishers are short-tailed, large-headed, compact birds with long, pointed bills. Like other Coraciiformes, they are brightly coloured. The tree kingfishers are medium to large species, mostly typical kingfishers in appearance, although shovel-billed kookaburra has a huge conical bill, and the Tanysiptera paradise kingfishers have long tail streamers. Some species, notably the kookaburras, show sexual dimorphism.

Distribution and Habitat

Most tree kingfishers are found in the warm climates of Africa, southern and southeast Asia, and Australasia. No members of this family are found in the Americas. The origin of the family is thought to have been in tropical Australasia, which still has the most species.

Tree kingfishers use a range of habitats from tropical rainforest to open woodlands and thornbush country. Many are not closely tied to water, and can be found in arid areas of Australia and Africa.


Tree kingfishers are monogamous and territorial, although some species, including three kookaburras, have a cooperative breeding system involving young from earlier broods. The nest is a tree hole, either natural, and old woodpecker nest, or excavated in soft or rotting wood by the kingfishers. Several species dig holes in termite nests. No nest material is added, although litter may build up over the years. 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 adults.


Although some tree kingfishers, such as the black-capped kingfisher, frequent wetlands, none are specialist fishers. Most species are watch-and-wait hunters which dive onto prey from a perch, mainly taking slow-moving invertebrates or small vertebrates. The shovel-billed kookaburra digs through leaf litter for worms and other prey, and the Vanuatu kingfisher feeds exclusively on insects and spiders. Several other western Pacific species are also mainly insectivorous and flycatch for prey. As with the other kingfisher families, insectivorous species tend to have flattened, red bills to assist in the capture of insects.


The tree kingfisher subfamily Halcyoninae is one of nine in the order Coraciiformes and two other subfamilies of kingfishers. The rollers do not appear to be particularly closely related to the other groups, and the Coraciiformes are therefore probably polyphyletic. In the past, all kingfishers were placed in the Alcedinidae, but the three subfamilies appear to have diverged early.

The species in this subfamily are quite well known; the vagueness of the count reflects controversies in the taxonomy of this family more than any gross lack of data on the birds; the present arrangement of genera seems to be supported by molecular analyses, although the relationship of many genera to one another is still unresolved.

Genus: Actenoides
 Moustached Kingfisher (Rothschild, 1904) (Actenoides bougainvillei)
 Black-headed Kingfisher (Meyer & Wiglesworth, 1896) (Actenoides capucinus)
 Rufous-collared Kingfisher (Temminck, 1825) (Actenoides concretus)
 Guadalcanal Moustached Kingfisher (Meyer, 1941) (Actenoides excelsus)
 Hombron's Kingfisher (Bonaparte, 1850) (Actenoides hombroni)
 Spotted Wood Kingfisher (Vigors, 1831) (Actenoides lindsayi)
 Green-backed Kingfisher (Bonaparte, 1850) (Actenoides monachus)
 Scaly-breasted Kingfisher (Reichenbach, 1851) (Actenoides princeps)
 Plain-backed Kingfisher (Stresemann, 1932) (Actenoides regalis)
Genus: Caridonax
 Glittering Kingfisher (Gould, 1857) (Caridonax fulgidus)
Genus: Cittura
 Lilac Kingfisher (Temminck, 1824) (Cittura cyanotis)
Genus: Clytoceyx
 Shovel-billed Kookaburra (Sharpe, 1880) (Clytoceyx rex)
Genus: Halcyon
 Brown-hooded Kingfisher (Scopoli, 1786) (Halcyon albiventris)
 Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (Verreaux & Verreaux, 1851) (Halcyon badia)
 Striped Kingfisher (Stanley, 1814) (Halcyon chelicuti)
 Ruddy Kingfisher (Latham, 1790) (Halcyon coromanda)
 Javan Kingfisher (Vieillot, 1818) (Halcyon cyanoventris)
 Grey-headed Kingfisher (Müller, 1776) (Halcyon leucocephala)
 Blue-breasted Kingfisher (Shaw, 1811) (Halcyon malimbica)
 Black-capped Kingfisher (Boddaert, 1783) (Halcyon pileata)
 Woodland Kingfisher (Linnaeus, 1766) (Halcyon senegalensis)
 Mangrove Kingfisher (Smith, 1834) (Halcyon senegaloides)
 White-throated Kingfisher (Linnaeus, 1758) (Halcyon smyrnensis)
Genus: Lacedo
 Banded Kingfisher (Horsfield, 1821) (Lacedo pulchella)
Genus: Melidora 
 Hook-billed Kingfisher (Lesson, 1827) (Melidora macrorrhina)
Genus: Pelargopsis
 Brown-winged Kingfisher (Pearson, 1841) (Pelargopsis amauroptera)
 Stork-billed Kingfisher (Linnaeus, 1766) (Pelargopsis capensis)
 Great-billed Kingfisher (Temminck, 1826) (Pelargopsis melanorhyncha)
Genus: Tanysiptera (paradise kingfishers)
 Numfor Paradise Kingfisher (Schlegel, 1871) (Tanysiptera carolinae)
 Brown-headed Paradise Kingfisher (Sharpe, 1880) (Tanysiptera danae)
 Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher (Sharpe, 1870) (Tanysiptera ellioti)
 Common Paradise Kingfisher (Gray, 1859) (Tanysiptera galatea)
 Little Paradise Kingfisher (Gray, 1858) (Tanysiptera hydrocharis)
 Red-breasted Paradise Kingfisher (Gray, 1840) (Tanysiptera nympha)
 Biak Paradise Kingfisher (Verreaux, 1866) (Tanysiptera riedelii)
 Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher (Gould, 1850) (Tanysiptera sylvia)
Genus: Dacelo (kookaburras)
 Rufous-bellied Kookaburra (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824) (Dacelo gaudichaud)
 Blue-winged Kookaburra (Vigors & Horsfield, 1826) (Dacelo leachii)
 Laughing Kookaburra (Hermann, 1783) (Dacelo novaeguineae)
 Spangled Kookaburra (Gray, 1858) (Dacelo tyro)
Genus: Syma
 Mountain Kingfisher (Salvadori, 1896) (Syma megarhyncha)
 Yellow-billed Kingfisher (Lesson, 1827) (Syma torotoro)
Genus: Todiramphus
 Mariana Kingfisher (Dumont, 1823) (Todiramphus albicilla)
 White-mantled Kingfisher (Ramsay, 1885) (Todiramphus albonotatus)
 Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher (Vieillot, 1818) (Todiramphus australasia)
 Collared Kingfisher (Boddaert, 1783) (Todiramphus chloris)
 Guam Kingfisher (Swainson, 1821) (Todiramphus cinnamominus)
  †Ryūkyū Kingfisher (Kuroda, 1919) (Todiramphus (cinnamominus) miyakoensis)
 Islet Kingfisher (Hartlaub, 1896) (Todiramphus colonus)
 Blue-and-white Kingfisher (Temminck, 1824) (Todiramphus diops)
 Talaud Kingfisher (Hartert, 1904) (Todiramphus enigma)
 Vanuatu Kingfisher (Sharpe, 1899) (Todiramphus farquhari)
 Sombre Kingfisher (Bonaparte, 1850) (Todiramphus funebris)
 †Mangareva Kingfisher (Oustalet, 1895) (Todiramphus gambieri)
 Niau Kingfisher (Murphy, 1924) (Todiramphus gertrudae)
 Marquesan Kingfisher (Finsch, 1877) (Todiramphus godeffroyi)
 Lazuli Kingfisher (Temminck, 1830) (Todiramphus lazuli)
 Ultramarine Kingfisher (Verreaux, 1858) (Todiramphus leucopygius)
 Forest Kingfisher (Jardine & Selby, 1830) (Todiramphus macleayii)
 Blue-black Kingfisher (Wallace, 1862) (Todiramphus nigrocyaneus)
 Rusty-capped Kingfisher (Wiglesworth, 1891) (Todiramphus pelewensis)
 Red-backed Kingfisher (Gould, 1841) (Todiramphus pyrrhopygius)
 Flat-billed Kingfisher (Lafresnaye, 1842) (Todiramphus recurvirostris)
 Pohnpei Kingfisher (Hartlaub, 1852) (Todiramphus reichenbachii)
 Mewing Kingfisher (Holyoak, 1974) (Todiramphus ruficollaris)
 Pacific Kingfisher (Gmelin, 1788) (Todiramphus sacer)
 Sacred Kingfisher (Vigors and Horsfield, 1827) (Todiramphus sanctus)
 Beach Kingfisher (Gould, 1843) (Todiramphus saurophagus)
 Torresian Kingfisher (Gould, 1842) (Todiramphus sordidus)
 Melanesian Kingfisher (EL Layard, 1880) (Todiramphus tristrami)
 Chattering Kingfisher (Gmelin, 1788) (Todiramphus tutus)
 †Rarotonga Kingfisher (Todiramphus cf. tutus)
 Society Kingfisher (Gmelin, 1788) (Todiramphus veneratus)
 Winchell's Kingfisher (Sharpe, 1877) (Todiramphus winchelli)