Kingfishers are a group of small to medium sized, brightly colored birds in the order Coraciiformes. They have a cosmopolitan distribution, with most species found outside of the Americas. There are roughly 90 species of Kingfishers. All have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. |
The African dwarf Kingfisher (Ispidina lecontei) is the smallest and averages around less than half an ounce and measures about 4 inches in length. The largest is the Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima), at an average of 13.5 oz and about 18 inches long. However, the Australian Kingfisher, the 'laughing' Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) may be the heaviest species, and can exceed one pound in weight.
Most Kingfishers have bright plumage with little differences between the sexes. Many species are found in the tropics and forests. They consume a wide range of prey as well as fish, usually caught by swooping down from a perch. While Kingfishers are usually thought to live near rivers and eat fish, many Kingfisher species actually live away from water and eat small invertebrates.
Like other members of their order, they nest in cavities, usually tunnels dug into the natural or artificial banks in the ground. The plumage of most kingfishers is bright, with green and blue being the most common colors. The brightness of the colors is caused by the structure of the feathers, which scatter blue light.
Kingfishers feed on a wide variety of items. They are mostly associated with eating fish but other species take crustaceans, frogs and other amphibians, insects, reptiles and even small birds and mammals. These birds are territorial and may defend their territories vigorously. They are generally monogamous, although cooperative breeding has been observed in some species.
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