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Megaceryle
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Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Coraciiformes
Family Alcedinidae
Cerylinae
Genus Megaceryle

Megaceryle is a genus of very large water kingfishers in the Alcedinidae family. Megaceryle is from the Ancient Greek megas, "great", and the existing genus Ceryle.

All are specialist fish-eaters with prominent stiff crests on their heads. They have dark grey or bluish-grey upperparts, largely unmarked in the two American species, but heavily spotted with white in the Asian crested kingfisher and the African giant kingfisher. The underparts may be white or rufous, and all forms have a contrasting breast band except male ringed kingfisher. The underpart pattern is always different for the two sexes of each species.

These birds nest in horizontal tunnels made in a river bank or sand bank. Both parents excavate the tunnel, incubate the eggs and feed the young.

Megaceryle kingfishers are often seen perched prominently on trees, posts, or other suitable watch-points close to water before plunging in head first after their prey, usually fish, crustaceans or frogs, but sometimes aquatic insects and other suitably sized animals.

Origins and Taxonomy

The previous view that the Megaceryle kingfishers arose in the New World from a specialist fish-eating Alcedinid ancestor which crossed the Bering Strait and gave rise to this genus and the American green kingfishers Chloroceryle, with a large crested species later, in the Pliocene, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to give rise to the giant and crested kingfishers

The Megaceryle kingfishers were formerly placed in Ceryle with the pied kingfisher, but the latter is genetically closer to the American green kingfishers.

Species

It comprises four species:

Belted Kingfisher (Linnaeus, 1758) (Megaceryle alcyon)
Crested Kingfisher (Temminck, 1834) (Megaceryle lugubris)
Giant Kingfisher (Pallas, 1769) (Megaceryle maxima)
Ringed Kingfisher (Linnaeus, 1766) (Megaceryle torquata)
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