Diving Pied Kingfishers

Neil Bygrave (NATURELENS)

Exeter, United Kingdom

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Best viewed large :-).

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) – Yala, Sri Lanka

Canon 7D
Canon 500mm F4 L IS plus 1.4x Extender

Test adapted from – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied_Kingfisher

The Pied Kingfisher is a water kingfisher and is found widely distributed across Africa and Asia. Their black and white plumage, crest and the habit of hovering over clear lakes and rivers before diving for fish makes it distinctive.

This kingfisher is about 17cm 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.

The Pied Kingfisher is estimated to be the world’s third most common kingfisher, and is a noisy bird, unmissable within its range.

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.

They can deal with prey without returning to a perch, 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.

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.

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