Body length: 16 cm. Weight: 35 g. Width of the wings: 26 cm. Length of the bill: 4 cm. Weight: 30-45 g. Life expectancy: 15 years.

The beautiful iridescent plumage of the kingfisher makes it one of most colourful and instantly recognisable birds; despite this it is rarely seen due to its shy nature. The upperparts are bright blue, while the underparts are a rich chestnut-red, although if seen in flight these colours may not be very obvious. The bill is very long and dagger-like. Although the sexes are generally similar, in breeding pairs they can be distinguished by the bill; in females it has a red base, whereas in males it is completely black. Although similar to adults, kingfisher juveniles have duller, greener plumage.

The Common Kingfisher’s beak is a real speargun and looks like a heron’s beak. The legs are tiny and serve only for landing on the branches or to get caught for the sand when digging up. The head is too large and the tail is too short.

The flight of Common Kingfishers is very fast, which makes their wings look like a blue haze. It flies low over the water, waving quickly with wings and releasing a squeaky sound. Often it is standing perched on a twig, hanging low over the water or on the stones.


Distribution and Habitat

It is widespread throughout Eurasia and North Africa. This species usually resides in areas where the climate is mild throughout the year and winter in the southern parts of nesting areas, but a small number of birds migrate from long-frozen areas in the winter to the south, crossing the Mediterranean and going to Africa or traveling through the mountains of Malaysia to Southeast Asia. It is also in Bulgaria.

The Common Kingfisher loves uninhabited, clean, slow-flowing streams, rivers and lakes with grown vegetation and shrubs with overhanging branches around. Ideal for him are the crumbling river banks in which the bird can dig a nest with its beak. The nest should be located high enough to remain intact in the event of water leakage and low enough to thwart fox, snakes, and other attackers who are trying to get over it.



The Common Kingfisher is mainly fed with small white fish, crayfish, crabgrass, red peppers, thistles, river whiskers. The last two species are the main part of his food. Young trout, ostriches and insect larvae occupy a secondary place. The non-digestible parts of the food are thrown out in the form of beads. They pave the nest in which the female will take its eggs.

The bird is unfairly accused of the damages for which man is responsible – water pollution and overfishing. It has been established that the Common Kingfisher is not the cause of the disappearance of any fish in the rivers where he lives. At the same time it does not catch only one species, but many species of fish. It also feeds on invertebrate animals. One hatch of 7 little absorbs approximately 1,000 fish during their stay in the nest. Thus, each bird from a starting mass of 3 g increases to 30 g when it leaves the nest. At the age of 17 days, when their appetite is greatest, the small ones receive about 24 fish per day.



Like all kingfishers, the common kingfisher is highly territorial; since it must eat around 60% of its body weight each day, it is essential to have control of a suitable stretch of river. It is solitary for most of the year, roosting alone in heavy cover. If another kingfisher enters its territory, both birds display from perches, and fights may occur, in which a bird will grab the other’s beak and try to hold it under water. Pairs form in the autumn but each bird retains a separate territory, generally at least 1 km long, but up to 3.5 km and territories are not merged until the spring.

The courtship is initiated by the male chasing the female while calling continually, and later by ritual feeding, with copulation usually following.

The nest is in a burrow excavated by both birds of the pair in a low vertical riverbank, or sometimes a quarry or other cutting. The straight, gently inclining burrow is normally 60–90 cm (24–35 in) long and ends in an enlarged chamber.The nest cavity is unlined but soon accumulates a litter of fish remains and cast pellets.

The common kingfisher typically lays two to ten glossy white eggs. One or two eggs in most clutches fail to hatch because the parent cannot cover them. Both sexes incubate by day, but only the female at night. An incubating bird sits trance-like, facing the tunnel; it invariably casts a pellet, breaking it up with the bill. The eggs hatch in 19–20 days, and the altricial young are in the nest for a further 24–25 days, often more. Once large enough, young birds will come to the burrow entrance to be fed.Two broods, sometimes three, may be reared in a season.


Conservation Status

A protected species from the Biodiversity Act.




Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)