Kingfishers are fascinating birds. Their colourful plumage and behaviour never fail to attract the attention of wildlife photographers and birdwatchers, like the Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting) above. Sometimes you may be attracted to the loud territorial cries of a male kingfisher but most times they can be seen quietly perching on a branch overhanging water, patiently waiting for prey, usually fish, to appear. Once a fish is sighted, the bird plunges down into the water to capture it. Returning to the perch, the fish is bashed a few time against the branch, stunning it before swallowing it whole. Bashing the fish helps to break up the spines as there is always the danger of these sharp spines causing damage the bird’s throat, even killing the bird.
The Stork-billed Kingfisher (Halcyon capensis) typically perches quietly on a branch with its bill pointing slightly downwards (above left). The White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) is another sit-and-wait bird (above right), but it is also capable of hovering vertically to seek out insects (below left).
The Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) has developed hovering to a fine art. With this ability, it does not need to always perch on a branch and can thus explore open habitats. As it hovers on rapidly beating wings, it looks out for prey in the water below (above right). However, once it catches a fish, it needs to return to a perch to bash it senseless before swallowing.
The Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a true fisher (above left). Again a sit-and-wait bird, it is capable of deep diving into water to seize a smallish fish. It also feeds on aquatic insects. The Black-capped Kingfisher (Halcyon pileata) feeds on fish and crabs in coastal habitats (above right). Elsewhere it seeks out dragonflies, grasshoppers, leaf-insects, crickets, beetles, bees and wasps. Another sit-and-wait bird, it does not stay still but changes position often or move to another perch.
Crested Kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris) is easily recognised with its snowy-flecked dark-grey head (above-left). The erect crest appears blackish with two large white patches when seen from the side. At the same time the forehead feathers stick out vertically.
William Ip is sharing his collection of 7 kingfishers that he photographed in Singapore, Hongkong and Taiwan.