Last updated on November 17th, 2023 at 06:08 pm

The kingfisher, a very colorful little bird with a very particular look, attracts many wildlife photographers. The colors of its plumage, its attitude and its speed make it a favorite subject for many of us.

Scientific name : Alcedo atthis
Family : Alcédinidés
Long. de 16 à 17 cm, Env. de 24 à 26 cm
Weight : de 30 à 45 gr


The kingfisher has a compact body, its short neck supports its large head extended by a pointed beak, its tail and its reduced legs. It has the head a little darker than the body, of a brilliant blue-green according to the places. A red stripe underlined by a broad blue stripe runs from the beak to the temples, above the white throat. The cheeks and belly are bright red-orange, the wings are blue-green. Scapulars and coverts show a green color with bright blue tips which contrasts with the bright cobalt blue hue of the mantle, back and rump. The undertail coverts are darker and the tail is dark blue. The chest is orange-red, the beak is black with red corners. Iris is dark brown, the legs are red.

Sexual dimorphism

The adult female is identical to the male, except for the beak: entirely black in the male, while the lower mandible is orange-red with a black tip in the female. The Kingfisher colors also have a special feature: depending on the incidence of light, the metallic blue of its plumage takes on different shades. These reflections constitute an excellent camouflage when it runs along the water.


The flight of the kingfisher is fast, direct at 40-45 km/h. It often flies over streams at water level. It uses gliding flight only over short distances, especially in the few seconds before accessing the perch.


The kingfisher is a loner. As an adult, it defends its territory. Most often it is a stretch of watercourse or stretch of water approximately one kilometer long.

Regime Diet

He who feeds on small fish and small aquatic animals. For this, it roams its territory by landing on the perches it knows, well placed to watch for its prey. If its position is high enough, it dives straight down. It also quickly emerges from the water thanks to the Archimedean thrust resulting from the air trapped under its plumage. Its attempt rewarded, it lands and begins to stun its prey by beating it on its branch with alternating head movements. Then it swallows it head first, so that the fins offer no resistance. Sometimes circumstances force him to throw the fish in the air to catch it in the right position.


The kingfisher nests in a burrow usually dug in the bank of a watercourse. Courtship precedes nesting. Courtship displays include noisy aerial chases. Both mates sometimes fly low to the surface of the water, sometimes above the tops of riverside trees. It can last for long hours and normally ends when the male presents a site to the female. The female lays six or seven eggs. The laying occurs from April to July. Both adults take turns brooding and feeding the young. After about 4 weeks, the young leave the nest and are quickly able to feed themselves. Male and female separate in winter. However, each continues to defend a part of the common territory, in a less aggressive way however.


This bird benefits from total protection on French territory since the ministerial decree of April 17, 1981 relating to birds protected throughout the territory. The Kingfisher is listed in Annex I of the European Union Birds Directive. This species, considered vulnerable, is on the IUCN France and Europe red list.


The kingfisher has a very shrill ‘tchiii’ call. Before even seeing the bird, it is often by its usual cry that we spot it.

Other Links

  • You can see the article from my site “The Birds of Camargue” for more information on the Camargue and the Birds.

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