Thai National Parks

Species of Thailand

Stork-billed kingfisher

Pelargopsis capensis, Carolus Linnaeus, 1766

(In Thai: นกกะเต็นใหญ่ธรรมดา)

The stork-billed kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis), is a tree kingfisher which is widely but sparsely distributed in the tropical Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, from India to Indonesia. This kingfisher is resident throughout its range.

It is a very large kingfisher, measuring 35 cm in length. The adult has a green back, blue wings and tail, and olive-brown head. Its underparts and neck are buff. The very large bill and legs are bright red. The flight of the stork-billed kingfisher is laboured and flapping, but direct. Sexes are similar. There are 13 races or subspecies, differing mostly in plumage detail, but P. c. gigantea of the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines has a white head, neck and underparts. The call of this noisy kingfisher is a low and far reaching peer-por-por repeated about every 5 seconds, as well cackling ke-ke-ke-ke-ke-ke.

The stork-billed kingfisher lives in a variety of well-wooded habitats near lakes, rivers, or coasts. It perches quietly whilst seeking food, and is often inconspicuous despite its size. It is territorial and will chase away eagles and other large predators. This species hunts fish, frogs, crabs, rodents and young birds.

Adults dig their nests in river banks, decaying trees, or tree termite nests. A clutch of two to five round white eggs is typical.


The first formal description of the stork-billed kingfisher was by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1766 in the 12th edition of his Systema Naturae. He coined the binomial name Alcedo capensis. Linnaeus based his description on Mathurin Jacques Brisson's "Le martin-pescheur du Cap de Bonne Espérance". Brisson believed his specimen had come from the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa. The species does not occur in Africa and it was suggested that the specimen had been obtained on the Indonesian island of Java. The specimen is now known to have come from near Chandannagar in West Bengal, India. Linnaeus's specific epithet capensis denotes the Cape of Good Hope. The current genus Pelargopsis was introduced by the German zoologist Constantin Gloger in 1841.

Thirteen subspecies are recognised:

  • P. c. capensis (Linnaeus, 1766) – Nepal through India to Sri Lanka
  • P. c. osmastoni (Baker, ECS, 1934) – Andaman Islands
  • P. c. intermedia Hume, 1874 – Nicobar Islands
  • P. c. burmanica Sharpe, 1870 – Myanmar to Indochina and south to north Malay Peninsula
  • P. c. malaccensis Sharpe, 1870 – central and south Malay Peninsula, Riau Archipelago and Lingga Islands
  • P. c. cyanopteryx (Oberholser, 1909) – Sumatra, Bangka Island and Belitung Island
  • P. c. simalurensis Richmond, 1903 – Simeulue Island (off the west coast of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia)
  • P. c. sodalis Richmond, 1903 – Banyak, Nias, Batu and Mentawai Islands (off the west coast of Sumatra)
  • P. c. innominata (van Oort, 1910) – Borneo
  • P. c. javana (Boddaert, 1783) – Java
  • P. c. floresiana Sharpe, 1870 – Bali to Flores (Lesser Sunda Islands)
  • P. c. gouldi Sharpe, 1870 – north Philippines
  • P. c. gigantea Walden, 1874 – central and south Philippines

The insular forms nesoeca on the Nias and Batu Islands as well as isoptera on Mentawai Island are here subsumed within sodalis. Prior to the change of type locality to Chandannagar, the birds in India were placed in the subspecies gurial but this race is now synonymized with the nominate race capensis.

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Category / Seasonal Status

BCST Category: Recorded in an apparently wild state within the last 50 years

BCST Seasonal status: Resident or presumed resident

Scientific classification

Pelargopsis capensis

Common names

  • Thai: นกกะเต็นใหญ่ธรรมดา


  • Halcyon capensis

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)


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Stork-billed kingfisher
Stork-billed kingfisher
Stork-billed kingfisher
Stork-billed kingfisher
Stork-billed kingfisher

Range Map

Distribution map of Stork-billed kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis in Thailand
  • Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
  • Ban Laem District, Phetchaburi
  • Ban Pho District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Pa In District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Phra Non-Hunting Area
  • Bangkok Province
  • Chaiyo District, Ang Thong
  • Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park
  • Don Chedi District, Suphan Buri
  • Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Kamphaeng Saen District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Khao Laem National Park
  • Khao Luang National Park
  • Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
  • Khao Sok National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khao Yoi District, Phetchaburi
  • Khlong Luang District, Pathum Thani
  • Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khok Pho District, Pattani
  • Khuan Khanun District, Phatthalung
  • Khung Kraben Non-Hunting Area
  • Ko Chang National Park
  • Kui Buri National Park
  • Laem Ngop District, Trat
  • Laem Pak Bia
  • Mueang Khon Kaen District, Khon Kaen
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Nonthaburi District, Nonthaburi
  • Mueang Pathum Thani District, Pathum Thani
  • Mueang Pattani District, Pattani
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Samut Sakhon District, Samut Sakhon
  • Mueang Satun District, Satun
  • Mueang Suphanburi District, Suphan Buri
  • Mueang Surat Thani District, Surat Thani
  • Nam Nao National Park
  • Nong Suea District, Pathum Thani
  • Pak Kret District, Nonthaburi
  • Pak Phanang District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Pak Thale
  • Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Phu Chong Na Yoi National Park
  • Phunphin District, Surat Thani
  • Phutthamonthon District, Nakhon Pathom
  • Sai Yok District, Kanchanaburi
  • Salak Pra Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Samut Prakan Province
  • Sangkhla Buri District, Kanchanaburi
  • Si Satchanalai District, Sukhothai
  • Sri Nakarin Dam National Park
  • Su-ngai Kolok District, Narathiwat
  • Takua Pa District, Phang Nga
  • Tha Sala District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
  • Thanyaburi District, Pathum Thani
  • Thong Pha Phum District, Kanchanaburi
  • Wang Nam Yen District, Sa Kaeo
  • Wat Phai Lom & Wat Ampu Wararam Non-Hunting Area
Range map of Pelargopsis capensis in Thailand