Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Pied kingfisher

Thai: นกกะเต็นปักหลัก, nok kraten paklak

Binomial name: Ceryle rudis, Carolus Linnaeus, 1758

The pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) is a water kingfisher and is found widely distributed across Africa and Asia. Its black and white plumage, crest and the habit of hovering over clear lakes and rivers before diving for fish makes it distinctive. Males have a double band across the breast while females have a single gorget that is often broken in the middle. They are usually found in pairs or small family parties. When perched, they often bob their head and flick up their tail.

Description

This kingfisher is about 17 cm long and is white with a black mask, a white supercilium and black breast bands. The crest is neat and the upperparts are barred in black. Several subspecies are recognized within the broad distribution. The nominate race is found in sub-Saharan Africa, extending into West Asia. A former subspecies syriaca is considered as merely a larger northern bird of the nominate species (following Bergmann's rule). Subspecies leucomelanura is found from Afghanistan east into India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Laos. The subspecies travancoreensis of the Western Ghats is darker with the white reduced. Subspecies C. r. insignis is found in Hainan and southeastern China and has a much larger bill. Males have a narrow second breast-band while females have a single broken breast band.

Distribution

It is common throughout sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia from Turkey to India to China. It is resident, and most birds do not migrate, other than short-distance seasonal movements. In India it is distributed mainly on the plains and is replaced in the higher hills of the Himalayas by Megaceryle lugubris.

The pied kingfisher is estimated to be the world's third most common kingfisher, and being a noisy bird, hard to miss.

Behaviour and ecology

This kingfisher feeds mainly on fish, although it will take crustaceans and large aquatic insects such as dragonfly larvae. It usually hunts by hovering over the water to detect prey and diving vertically down bill-first to capture fish. When not foraging, they have a straight rapid flight and have been observed flying at nearly 32 mph.

In Lake Victoria in East Africa the introduction of the Nile perch reduced the availability of haplochromine cichlids which were formerly the preferred prey of these birds.

They can deal with prey without returning to a perch, often swallowing small prey in flight, and so can hunt over large water bodies or in estuaries that lack perches that are required by other kingfishers. Unlike some kingfishers, it is quite gregarious, and forms large roosts at night. When perched, the often bob their heads up and down and will sometimes raise their tail and flick it downwards. They call often with sharp chirruk chirruk notes.

The breeding season is February to April. Its nest is a hole excavated in a vertical mud bank about five feet above water. The nest tunnel is 4 to 5 feet deep and ends in a chamber. Several birds may nest in the same vicinity. The usual clutch is 3–6 white eggs. The pied kingfisher sometimes reproduces co-operatively, with young non-breeding birds from an earlier brood assisting parents or even unrelated older birds. In India, nestings have been found to be prone to maggot infestations (probably by Protocalliphora sp.) and in some areas to leeches. Nest holes may sometimes be used for roosting.

This species was initially believed to be descended from an ancestral American green kingfisher which crossed the Atlantic Ocean about 1 million years ago. A more recent suggestion is that the pied kingfisher and the American green kingfishers are derived from an Old World species, with the pied kingfisher or its ancestor losing the metallic colouration afterwards.

In 1947, H B Cott noticed while skinning birds that hornets were attracted to certain birds but avoided the flesh of pied kingfishers. This led to a comparative study of edibility of birds and he suggested that more conspicuously plumaged birds may be less palatable. This suggestion was, however, not supported by a subsequent reanalysis of his data.

This article uses material from Wikipedia released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike Licence 3.0. Eventual photos shown in this page may or may not be from Wikipedia, please see the license details for photos in photo by-lines.

Videos of Pied kingfisher

  • Pied kingfisher - Chiang Rai

    Pied kingfisher - Chiang Rai

  • Pied kingfisher

    Pied kingfisher

  • Pied kingfisher - Ayutthaya, Thailand

    Pied kingfisher - Ayutthaya, Thailand

  • Pied kingfisher

    Pied kingfisher

Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Coraciiformes
Family
Alcedinidae
Genus
Ceryle
Species
Ceryle rudis

Common names

  • Thai: นกกะเต็นปักหลัก, nok kraten paklak

Subspecies

  • Ceryle rudis insignis, Ernst Johann Otto Hartert, 1910

    Range: Hainan and southeastern China

  • Ceryle rudis leucomelanura, Heinrich Gottlieb Ludwig Reichenbach, 1851

    Range: From Afghanistan east into India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Laos.

  • Ceryle rudis rudis (nominate), Carolus Linnaeus, 1758

    Range: Sub-Saharan Africa to West Asia

  • Ceryle rudis travancoreensis, Hugh Whistler & Norman Boyd Kinnear, 1935

    Range: Western Ghats

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Pied kingfisher

Pied kingfisher

Copyright iStockphoto,

Ceryle rudis - Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary

Ceryle rudis - Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Distribution map of Pied kingfisher, Ceryle rudis in Thailand
  • Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
  • Ban Lat District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Phai District, Khon Kaen
  • Bang Ban District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Pa In District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Pahan District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bueng Boraped Non-hunting Area
  • Bueng Khong Long Non-hunting Area
  • Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai
  • In Buri District, Sing Buri
  • Kabin Buri District, Prachinburi
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Kamphaeng Saen District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khao Yoi District, Phetchaburi
  • Laem Pak Bia
  • Mae Ai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Kanchanaburi District, Kanchanaburi
  • Mueang Khon Kaen District, Khon Kaen
  • Mueang Nakhon Sawan District, Nakhon Sawan
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Phichit District, Phichit
  • Mueang Phitsanulok District, Phitsanulok
  • Mueang Ratchaburi District, Ratchaburi
  • Mueang Sukhothai District, Sukhothai
  • Mueang Tak District, Tak
  • Mueang Uttaradit District, Uttaradit
  • Nong Bong Khai Non-hunting Area
  • Nong Prue District, Kanchanaburi
  • Nong Ya Plong District, Phetchaburi
  • Pa Sak Chonlasit Dam Non-hunting Area
  • Pak Kret District, Nonthaburi
  • Pak Thale
  • Pha Taem National Park
  • Phanat Nikhom District, Chonburi
  • Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Pran Buri District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Salawin National Park
  • Taphan Hin District, Phichit
  • Tha Takiap District, Chachoengsao
  • Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
  • Wat Phai Lom & Wat Ampu Wararam Non-hunting Area

Range map of Ceryle rudis in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

Contribute or get help with ID

Please help us improving our species range maps. To add a new location to the range map we need a clear image of the specimen you have encountered. No problem if you do not know the species, we will do our best to identify it for you.

For the location, please provide the district name or the national park/ wildlife sanctuary name.

Please post your images to our Thai Species Identification Help group on Facebook.