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Stork-billed
Kingfisher

Pelargopsis/Halcyon capensis

Pekaka Paruh Pendek, Pekaka Buaya/Mas (Malay)

Stork-billed Kingfishers are the largest Kingfishers found in Singapore. But they are rarely sighted because they are shy and less noisy than other Kingfishers.

Stork-billed Kingfishers eat mainly fishes, using their large heavy bills to good effect to catch and kill their prey. From their perch, usually about 2-4 m above the water, they will plunge into the water. They also eat crabs, insects, frogs, mice, lizards, birds and their eggs. Prey is brought back and whacked senseless against the perch.

They usually hunt near water both freshwater and along coasts and mangroves, particularly in habitats with suitable perches. Unlike the Collared, Stork-billed Kingfishers are rarely found near urban areas.

Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: The largest (37cm, 140-200g, females usually heavier); bill large (18-20cm) coral-red; upper parts blue; head brown; collar and underparts orange-yellow; feet red.

Adult: As above. Genders look alike.
stork-billed kingfisher
Juvenile: Like the adult but with narrow dusky fringes on the collar, lower throat and breast and buff-green fringing on upper tail coverts.

Call: Described as flutey 3-4 note fuey falling in pitch; a loud ke-ke-keke-ke-ke in flight. Also a squawking cackle.

In flight: Plain blue wings; big red bill.

Similar birds:
Collared Kingfisher (H. chloris): has black bill and feet; the Stork-billed has no white collar.
White-throated Kingfisher (H. smyrnensis): the Stork-billed has no underparts.
Black-capped Kingfisher (H. pileata): the Stork-billed has no white collar.

Status in Singapore: Uncommon resident throughout the island and North and South offshore islands.

World distribution: India across the Asian subcontinent and Southeast Asia to Sulawesi.

Classification: Family Alcedinidae, subfamily Dacelonidae. World 61 species, Singapore 5 species.
Mostly solitary, Stork-billed Kingfishers are territorial and will also chase away even larger birds like storks and eagles from their feeding and breeding grounds. Only occasionally are they found in pairs.

Breeding: Stork-billed Kingfishers dig out a tunnel nest in among other things: river banks, termite and ants' nests (include a nest made 6 m high up in a tree), and a hollow tree trunk. 2-5 white eggs are laid. Little else is known about their breeding habits.

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

Status and threats: Although not very common, Stork-billed Kingfishers are not considered at risk in Singapore. They are found near freshwater wetlands (ponds, reservoirs, rivers) as well as brackish and coastal areas; and the edges of forest and cultivated lands.

REFERENCES
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Nature's Niche
  • Morten Strange, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000 (p. 181: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
  • David R Wells, "The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)", Academic Press, 1999 (p. 507-509: 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).
  • 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. 60: 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. 83: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1992 (p. 11: status in Singapore).
  • M W F Tweedie, "Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970 (p. 29: brief description).
  • G C Madoc, "An Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947 (p. 97: description, habits, habitat).
  • Sir John A S Bucknill and E N Chasen, " Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia", Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 117-118: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
  • C Hillary Fry and Kathie Fry, "Kingfishers, Bee-Eaters and Rollers: A Handbook", Christopher Helm, 1992 (p. 137-9: identification, habitat, habits, diagrams of bill).
  • 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