eating a fish, the bird will hold it by its tail and whack it to death against
the perch, particularly fishes with poky fins. Otherwise, the live fish
may extend its fins in the bird's throat, choking it, sometimes to death.
Kingfishers regurgitate pellets of indigestible fishbone. The birds preen
themselves carefully after fishing to ensure their feathers remain waterproof.
Juveniles often nearly drown because they failed to pay enough attention
Pekaka Cit-Cit Kecil, Raja Udang
Common Kingfishers are not as common in Singapore as they are in temperate
countries. Here, other Kingfishers are more likely to be encountered.
Kingfishers are among the few Kingfishers that specialise in fishing.
They are well known for plunging into the water to catch their prey:
mainly small fish (60%) and prawns (30%), although they do pick off
crabs and small mudskippers from mudflats. Common Kingfishers prefer
to hunt in shallow water which gives them better accuracy.
Common Kingfishers usually perch on a convenient branch or pole about
1-2m from the water surface. They plunge into the water from their
perch (90%); or hover before diving in (3%). They have keen eyesight
with polarising filters to cut out water reflection and better see
their prey. They also learn to compensate for refraction. When they
plunge into the water, the eyes are protected by a membrane. So they
actually catch their prey blind, relying on touch to decide when to
snap their bills shut. They then fly straight out of the water with
their prey in their bills.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Small (17cm, 27-36g); upperparts
turquoise-green, underparts pale to mid-orange; throat
white; head sides white with rufous ear coverts; bill
black; feet tiny, red.
Male: Bill all black.
Female: Bill mandible base
Juvenile: Bill as in female,
may have a white tip; upper parts paler and duller; sooty
fringing across breast.
Call: Described as a trill;
shrill, high-pitched seep-seep, repeated 2-3 times,
usually in flight.
flight: Bright metallic green-blue back and rump.
Flight is direct and low.
Morten Strange and
Similar birds: Other kingfishers
are much larger; lacks white head sides.
Status in Singapore: Very
common winter visitor throughout the island and North
and South offshore islands.
World distribution: Throughout
Old World to New Guinea and Pacific Islands, but not in
Classification: Family Alcedinidae,
subfamily Alcedininae. World 26 species, Singapore 2 species.
There are 9 subspecies of the Common Kingfisher.
Common Kingfishers are solitary and highly territorial because they have
to eat about 60% of their body weight a day. They fiercely defend their
feeding grounds, even from their mates and offspring. When contesting territory,
they perform a ritual display perched some distance from each other. This
involves displaying feathers and beaks, accompanied by whistling. Usually
the dispute is resolved without actual combat. But in rare instances, combatants
will lock beaks and attempt to drown each other.
Common Kingfishers seen in Singapore are visitors and breed in Northern
Asia (e.g., Taiwan, Korea). But there is a small resident population in
peninsular Malaysia. For those in Europe, courtship involves chasing and
calling and usually culminates in the male catching and offering the female
an "engagement fish".
Common Kingfishers nest on steep river banks, or even active termite mounds,
digging out a tunnel that ends in a chamber. 4-8, usually 2, white eggs
are laid, incubated by both parents in 18-21 days. Both parents raise the
young. The chicks fledge in about 23-24 days. Mortality rates can be as
high as 50%.
For more about the hunting methods and breeding
habits of Kingfishers in general.
Migration: Common Kingfishers that breed
far north migrate to the south, usually travelling at night. They may travel
past the breeding grounds of more southerly residents, and go all the way
to eastern Indonesia. In Singapore, they are more common in August to April.
Status and threats: The Common Kingfisher
is not at risk in Singapore where they are found near open streams, canals,
reservoirs, ponds and along the coasts. They are usually not found in forests
or densely forested streams.
About the European Common Kingfisher
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 178: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- David R Wells,
"The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)",
Academic Press, 1999 (p. 520-522: identification, distribution map,
habits, habitat, migration, conservation).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- James Gan, "Colourful
Migratory Birds at Sungei Buloh", Wetlands Vol 5 No 3, Nov
98, Sungei Buloh Nature Park (p. 3).
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 31: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 59: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 134: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore),
1992 (p. 11: status in Singapore).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 103: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- M W F Tweedie,
"Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970
(p. 28: brief description).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 97-98: description, habits, habitat).
- Prof. Dr. Yong
Hoi Sen (ed.), "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Animals";
Kingfishers and Woodpeckers by Siti Hawa bt Yatim, Editions Didier Millet,
1998 (p. 56: habits, habitats).
- Charlie Hamilton
James, "Kingfishers", Colin Baxter Photography, 1997
(whole book has lots of info about the European race of the Common Kingfisher).