Australia's Beautiful Kingfishers

Kingfishers are found all over Australia, but mainly in coastal areas. There are ten native species, including the most abundant kingfishers, the kookaburra.

Kingfishers live in the nest in tree hollows, in burrows in riverbanks, and termite nests. They feed on small animals like fish, frogs, yabbies, snakes, insects, and nestlings of other birds.

Cloaked in stunning green, blue, turquoise, and orange plumage, some kingfishers were once in danger because they were hunted for their feathers to the point of extinction.

These stocky birds are usually tough and hunt by pouncing upon prey in a flash of color from branches above the water surface or the forest floor. The kingfishers have a heavy beak, which is a perfect tool for despatching victims quickly – they smack their hapless prey against tree branches before swallowing them whole.

Sacred Kingfisher

Wingspan: 29–33cm Length: 20–23cm

This turquoise-green kingfisher lives in open forests and on the edges of lakes, mudflats, and streams, also in parks, golf courses, and near garden ponds. Although it feeds primarily on insects and small reptiles, it isn't above pillaging goldfish from unguarded ponds.

Buff-Breasted Paradise Kingfisher

Wingspan: 34–35cm Length: 29–35cm

Despite its striking red bill with long white tail feathers, making up almost half its body length, this species is difficult to find in their native rainforests and gullies but is sometimes seen in thicker vegetative gardens. It breeds in Australia and makes its nests in active termite mounds – flying beak-first into the mound until it has finally dug a hole. Once the young are mature enough, they fly with their parents to New Guinea for the winter.

Collared Kingfisher

Wingspan: 42–52cm Length: 24–29cm

They are also known as the mangrove kingfisher. It lives only along the northern coastlines from Shark Bay, WA, to the NSW's lower Clarence River. It prefers eating crabs and fish but will eat insects, small reptiles, and nestlings of other birds if the seafood pickings are slim.

Little Kingfisher

Wingspan: 20–26cm Length: 11.5–13cm

The little kingfisher is the smallest of the native species of kingfishers found in the continent. Its bright, dark-blue plumage flashes as it bounces across the water to hunt small fish and crustaceans, which are its main food. It lives along dense vegetated coastal creeks, mangroves, swamps, and rainforest streams.

Azure Kingfisher

Wingspan: 25–29cm Length: 17–19cm

Like the little kingfisher, the azure makes its home along the coastal banks and inland rivers banks, swamps, and mangroves. During the breeding season, it outlines its nest with fish bones and scales. They are found along much of our northern and eastern seaboards and Tasmania; this species hunts for small mammals, reptiles, fish, and frogs.

Yellow-billed Kingfisher

Wingspan: 34–35cm Length: 18–21cm

Bright orange and olive green might look loud, but the yellow-billed kingfisher manages to pull it off well. In Australia, these birds are found on the Cape York Peninsula only, where they can feed on insects, earthworms, and lizards. During the mating season, males raise their orange head-feathers to form a crest.

Forest Kingfisher

Wingspan: 34-35cm Length: 18–23cm

This bird likes living in a lightly wooded country and at the edges of fields and beaches. It is likely found from the Top End to the Gold Coast. Its deep-blue and pale-turquoise coloring is a beautiful bird, often seen perched on power lines, as it watches for insects and small lizards.

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