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Quick facts

Common name(s):
kingfisher, common kingfisher

Scientific name: Alcedo atthis

Family: Alcedinidae (kingfishers)

Habitat: riparian woodland (riverside woodland), grasslands, marshes

Diet: small fish and aquatic invertebrates

Predators: domestic cats, mink

Origin: native

What do kingfishers look like?

The kingfisher is a small bird with unmistakable plumage. Its back is bright metallic blue and its breast is a coppery-brown. The beak is long and black, though females have a red patch at the base. With a wingspan of 25cm and body length of 16cm, a kingfisher is only slightly larger than a robin, although it is nearly twice as heavy.

 

Kingfisher on perch with fish in beak

Credit: John Bridges / WTML

What do kingfishers eat?

Kingfishers are, as their name suggests, expert fishers! They hunt by diving into the water for small fish, such as minnows, as well as invertebrates like dragonfly nymphs.

Did you know?

It was once thought that kingfishers had destructively voracious appetites, so much so that they were persecuted by owners of fisheries in the 1800s.

How do kingfishers breed?

They tunnel into high-sided riverbanks to make a small chamber for their eggs, producing two to three broods a year.

Each clutch can contain up to seven eggs, the first hatching in March to May. The eggs take around 20 days to incubate and chicks fledge after 25 days. The parents feed their young for a further four days before chasing them off and starting the next brood.

Kingfishers become sexually mature at one year old.

Kingfisher in flight over water

Credit: John Bridges / WTML

Where do kingfishers live?

The kingfisher is widespread in the UK but is absent from northern Scotland.  It is active all year round near rivers, canals and wetlands.

Did you know?

Kingfishers are so difficult to spot, they have inspired a saying: ‘Only the righteous see the kingfisher’.

Signs and spotting tips

Look for kingfishers near slow-moving water. Keep an eye out for them perched on low-hanging branches or posts near the water’s edge as they get ready to dive in for a snack.

Kingfisher call

Audio: Dominic Garcia-Hall / xeno-canto.org