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Black-capped Kingfisher
Halcyon pileata

Pekaka Kopiah/Kepala Hitam (Malay)

Black-capped Kingfishers are common winter visitors that resemble the resident White-throated Kingfishers in look and call. Black-capped Kingfishers, however, are more quiet than their smaller resident cousins and more wary and hard to approach closely.

Black-capped Kingfishers have a broad diet. Those near the coast eat mainly crabs and fish. Those elsewhere eat mainly insects, particularly those that live near water (dragonflies, water boatmen), but also stinging insects like bees and wasps. Occasionally, frogs and small reptiles are caught.

Black-capped Kingfishers hunt in open areas, keeping a lookout for prey from a favourite high perch (1-2m above the water or ground). They only rarely plunge into water to catch aquatic prey. Black-capped Kingfishers are solitary hunters and aggressively territorial. They may chase off not only other Black-cappeds but also other species of Kingfishers which use similar hunting techniques.
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Medium (30cm); black cap and sides of head; throat white; bill red. Upperparts deep blue; upper breast white, also has a white collar; rest underparts orange; feet red. Genders look alike.

Juvenile: blue parts duller; buffy collar; sometimes breast scaling is extensive.
black-capped kingfisher
Photo from
Morten Strange
Call: Described as a tremulous tr-ee-o; a piercing alarm call on take off. Other calls similar to the White-throated.

In flight: Often appears mauve/purplish-blue; black wing tips; white patch at base of primaries.

Similar birds:
Collared Kingfisher (H./Todirhamphus chloris) smaller size; black bill and feet, blue cap, white underparts; in flight uniformly blue.
White-throated Kingfisher (H. smyrnensis) lack white collar. In flight appears similar.

Status in Singapore: Common winter visitor throughout the island and North and South offshore islands.

World distribution: East Asia from India to Sulawesi.

Classification: Family Alcedinidae, subfamily Dacelonidae. World 61 species, Singapore 5 species.
Breeding: Black-capped Kingfishers nest along river banks. Both parents dig out the nest tunnel, up to 60cm deep. 4-5 eggs are laid.

For more about the hunting methods and breeding habits of Kingfishers in general.

Migration: Black-capped Kingfishers are the most northerly breeders in their genus. They breed in northern Asia from India through Myanmar to China and Korea and do not appear to breed further south than Indochina and Thailand. Those found in Singapore are migrants that breed in Myanmar and China. They migrate alone or in pairs, faithfully following traditional routes, going as far south as Borneo, Sumatra and Java. They arrive in September and leave in April.

Status and threats: Black-capped Kingfishers are not considered at risk in Singapore. They are found mainly in freshwater habitats, open ponds, reservoirs, rivers, coasts. But elsewhere, they can also be found in drier inland habitats and up to 1,000m high.

  To buy these references & others, visit
Nature's Niche
  • Morten Strange, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000 (p. 182: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
  • Morten Strange, "Tropical Birds of Malaysia and Singapore", Periplus Editions, 2000 (p. 34: habits, habitat, photo).
  • David R Wells, "The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)", Academic Press, 1999 (p. 513-514: 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 names).
  • Morten Strange, "Birds of Southeast Asia: A photographic guide to the birds of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia", New Holland, 1998 (p. 45: photo, facts).
  • Lim Kim Seng and Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 32: 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. 61: 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. 84: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
  • Christopher Hails, "Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 104: habits, description, status in Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1992 (p. 11: status in Singapore).
  • G C Madoc, "An Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947 (p. 97: description, habits, habitat).
  • C Hillary Fry and Kathie Fry, "Kingfishers, Bee-Eaters and Rollers: A Handbook", Christopher Helm, 1992 (p. 147-149: identification, habitat, habits).
  • 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).
By Ria Tan, 2001