Alcedinidae - Genus ALCEDO - Kingfishers

Fauna of India (Birds)  vol iii 1895 - by W. T. Blanford

Page 39
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Genus ALCEDO, Linn., 1766

Back bright blue, head banded black and blue. Bill long, compressed; culmen very slightly curved, the ridge rounded not flattened above, and with a slight groove on each side. Wing somewhat pointed, 3rd or 4th quill longest, 1st and 2nd very little shorter. Tail very short, shorter than the bill and rounded at the end. Feet weak. A genus of 10 known species, half of which are Indian. The generic range extends throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Key to the Species
a. Size small; wing 2.5 to 3.2
   a’. Ear-coverts ferruginous in adults                          .... A. ispida
   b’. Ear-coverts blue in adults
      a”. Middle of back pale blue                                ..... A. beavani
      b”. Middle of back deep blue                                 ..... A. meninting
b. Size larger; wing about 3.5
   c’. No green band across breast
      c”. Bars on head conspicuous, whitish blue            ..... A. grandis
      d”. Bars on head inconspicuous, dull greenish blue ..... A. euryzona (female)
   d’. A green band across breast                                 ..... A. euryzona (male)

Alcedo ispidaCommon Kingfisher

Alcedo ispida, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p.179 (1766); Sharpe, Mon. Alc. p.1, pl.i; Hume, S.F.i, p.168; id. 134 bis; Blanf. East. Pers. ii, p.121; Butler, S.F.v, p.208; Murray, Vert. Zool. Sind, p.111; Barnes, Birds Bom. p.102; Sharpe, Cat.B.M. xvii p.141
Alcedo bengalensis, Gm. Syst. Nat. i, p.450 (1788); Blyth, Cat. p.49; Horsf. & M.Cat. p.129; Adams, P.Z.S. 1858, p.474; 1859, p.174; Jerdon, B.I.i, p.230; Hume & Henders. Lah. to Yark. p.178; Hume, S.F.i, p.168; ii, p.173; xi, p.46; id. 134; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p.71; Anders. Yunnan Exped., Aves, p.580; Hume & Dav., p.81; Cripps, S.F.vii, p.260; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p.292; Oates, B.B.ii, p.72; id. in Hume’s N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p.1; Barnes, Birds Bom. p.101
Alcedo sindiana, Hume, S.F.i, p.168
Common Indian Kingfisher, Jerdon; Chota Kilkila, Nita or Nika machrala, H.; Khandu, Khandya, Mahr.; Chota-machranga, B.; Tint konu, Tuntu, Kashmiri; Ung-chin, Lepcha; Nila buche gadu, TeL; Dane-nyin, Burm.

Fig. 35 - head of A. ispida

Coloration: Crown and nape transversely banded dusky black and blue. Lores and a band below the eye to the ear-coverts deep ferruginous, ending in a white or rufous-white patch at the side of the neck. Lower edge of lores black, a broad stripe from the lower mandible down each cheek blue. Middle of back, rump, and upper tail-coverts bright blue. Scapulars and wing-coverts greenish blue, each of the lesser and median coverts tipped with a bright blue spot. Quills brown, edged outside with greenish blue. Tail blue above, brown beneath. Lower parts deep ferruginous, sometimes paler, always whitish or white on chin and throat. Some birds are a greener blue than others. Young birds are duller in colour and have the lower parts tinged with ashy.

Bill black; basal half of lower mandible in females red or orange; iris dusky brown; feet coral-red (Sharpe).

Size: Length about 7;  tail 1.4;  wing 2.75 to 3.1;  tarsus 0.37;  bill from gape 1.9.
In accordance with the latest views of Dr. Bowdler Sharpe, who has made a special study of Kingfishers, I have united the Indian Kingfisher with the European and Central Asiatic bird. The former has long been distinguished as A. bengalensis, on account of its small size; but unquestionably the two pass into each other, and the difference in size is probably due to a very common peculiarity that tropical races (or perhaps southern races) in Asia are smaller than those of temperate regions.

Distribution: Throughout Europe and Asia, extending to the Malay archipelago. In the Indian area, this bird is only wanting in the Himalayas, where it is rarely met with far above the base of the mountains, though it abounds in Kashmir. It is of course most common in well-watered countries and comparatively rare in forest-tracts. The smaller race A. bengalensis occurs throughout South-eastern Asia; the larger, typical A. ispida only occurs within Indian limits in Sind and Baluchistan, bat intermediate forms are common.

Habits: The Common Kingfisher frequents streams of all sizes, marshes, tanks, irrigation-channels, road-side ditches, flooded paddy-fields, and even the sea-shore, anywhere, in fact, where small fish may be found, and perches on a tree or stump, and very often on a reed, or any post of vantage overlooking the water; from its perch it plunges after its prey. It lives mainly on fish, occasionally on tadpoles or water-insects, but it is rarely, if ever, seen away from water, Very often these little Kingfishers are in pairs and they are exceedingly pugnacious, each pair driving away all others of the same species. It has a peculiar whistling cry or call, frequently uttered. Its flight is very swift and straight, generally just above the surface of the water. It breeds in India from January to June, earlier in the south of India than in the north, but in some parts it breeds at other seasons. It digs in a bank immediately over water, usually a stream, a narrow hole, about 2 feet in depth and rarely more than 2 inches in diameter, terminating in a chamber about 5 inches in diameter and 3 or 4 high, in which 5 to 7 eggs are laid, very often on a few fish-bones. The eggs are white and glossy and measure 0.8 by 0.68.

Alcedo beavaniBeavan’s Kingfisher

Alcedo meninting, apud Beavan, Ibis, 1867, p.319; Blanf. Ibis, 1870, p.465; Oates, S.F.v, p.143; Brooks, S.F.viii, p.468; Salvadori, Ann. Mus. Civ. Gen. (2) iv, p.584 (nec Horsf.)
Alcedo asiatica, apud Ball, S.F.i, p.59; Hume, S.F.ii, p.174; Ball, S.F.iii, p.289; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p.71; Hume, S.F.iv, p.383; Oates, B.B.ii, p.73; id. in Hume’s N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p.6 (nec Swainson)
Alcedo rufigastra, Wald. A.M.N.H. (4) xii, p.487 (1873); id. ibis, 1874, p.136
Alcedo beavani, Wald. A.M.N.H. (4) xiv, p.158 (1874); id. Ibis, 1875, p.461; Godw.-Aust. J.A.S.B. xlv, pt.2, p.193; Hume & Dav., pp.84, 499; Ball, S.F. vii, p.204; Hume, 135 quat.; Hume, S.F.ix, p.247; xi, p.47; Butler, S.F.ix, p.383; Davison, S.F.x, p.351; Barnes, Birds Bom. p.102; Sharpe, Cat. B.M. xvii, p.160

Coloration: Crown, nape, and hindneck black, with bright blue cross-bands. Lores ferruginous, the lower border black. Sides of head and cheeks bright blue, an elongate buff or white spot on each side of the neck behind the ear-coverts. Middle of back and rump bright light blue, sometimes with a slight greenish tint. Upper tail-coverts rather darker blue. Scapulars, wing-coverts, and outer margins of secondary quills dull blue, most of the coverts each with a bright blue spot at the tip; quills brown, with the inner margins pale rufous. Tail deep blue above, black below; chin and throat buffy white; rest of lower parts, including wing-lining, deep ferruginous.

Adult females resemble males; young birds have the cheeks and ear-coverts rufous, and the blue on these parts appears to be more slowly assumed by females than by males.

Bill black, orange at the gape and base; iris dark brown; legs bright red, claws red. Young birds have most of the lower mandible red and the tip white (Oates).

Size: Length about 6.2;  tail 1.25;  wing 2.5;  tarsus 0.35;  bill from gape 1.8-2.2

Distribution: This Kingfisher is very rare west of the Bay of Bengal, but has been obtained in Travancore and west of Belgaum near the Malabar coast, also in the Rajmehal Hills, Manbhoom, and Cuttack, and, quite recently, in Ceylon. It is more common at the base of the Himalayas in Sikkim and Bhutan, in Assam and Cachar, in various parts of Burma from Bhamo to southern Tenasserim, and in the Andaman islands, but it is locally distributed. It has also been brought from Cochin China and Celebes.

Habits: Very similar to those of A. i except that this is purely a forest species, being restricted to woodland streams. The eggs, 4 to 6 in number, were taken from the usual nest- holes by Mr. Oates in Pegu in the month of July; they were glossy white and round, and measured about 0.78 by 0.69.

Alcedo menintingMalayan Kingfisher

Alcedo meninting, Horsf. Tr. Linn. Soc. xiii, p.172 (1821); Blyth, Cat. p.49; Horsf.& M.Cat. p.130; Hume & Dav., p.83; Hume, 135 ter; Sharpe, Cat.B.M. xvii, p.157
Alcedo asiatica, Swains. Zool. Ill. 1st ser. i, pl.50 (1821); Sharpe, Mon. Alc. p.23, pl.5

Coloration: Precisely similar to that of A. beavani, except that the blue of the upper parts is deeper, the spots on the wing coverts especially being comparatively inconspicuous; and the middle of the back is deep cobalt. Measurements as in A. beavani.

I am disposed to agree with Oates and to regard A. beavani as merely a bright-coloured variety. Hume was inclined to the same view, and the distribution of the two is anomalous if they are distinct; but when a series of both is laid out, there is a perceptible difference between them.

Distribution: Malay peninsula, extending into the extreme south of Tenasserim, also in Sumatra, Java, and Borneo.

Alcedo grandisBlyth’s Kingfisher

Alcedo grandis, Blyth, J.A.S.B. xiv, p.190 (1845); id. Cat. p.49; id. Ibis, 1865, p.30, 1866, p.348; Sharpe, Mon. Alc. p.19, pl.3; Jerdon, Ibis, 1872, p.4; Godw.-Aust. J.A.S.B. xlv pt.2, p.69; xlvii, pt.2, p.14; Hume, 135; id. S.F.xi, p.47; Oates in Hume’s N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p.4; Sharpe, Cat. B.M. xvii, p.156
Alcedo euryzona, apud Blyth, Cat., Addenda, p. xxviii; Jerdon B.I.i, p.231 nec Temm.
Great Indian Kingfisher, Jerdon

Coloration: Whole cap and nape black, with small bluish-white transverse bars. A ferruginous spot on the black lores. A pale patch in front of the eye, another behind and below it. Cheeks and ear-coverts blackish, spotted and streaked with bright greenish blue. A white longitudinal stripe on each side of the neck; middle of back and rump bright pale blue, becoming deeper blue on the upper tail-coverts. Scapulars and wings dull green outside, with some bright bluish-white specks on the coverts. Quills brown, some of the secondaries with greenish-blue edges. Tail deep blue above, brown below; lower parts deep ferruginous, whitish on throat and chin. Sexes, so far as is known, alike.

Bill black, red at the base of the lower mandible; feet red (Jerdon).

Size: Length about 8; tail 1.8;  wing 3.8;  tarsus 0.42;  bill from gape 2.5

Distribution: This Kingfisher has only been obtained at low elevations in the Sikkim and Bhutan Himalayas, in the Dafla hills east of Bhutan, and in some of the hills south of the Assam valley.

Habits: These were unknown until an excellent account of them was given in the ‘Asian’ newspaper by “Rekab” (Mr. Stuart Baker). He found the bird very shy, keeping to streams in dense jungle, and feeding chiefly or wholly on fish. It is a silent bird, its note, only uttered on the wing, resembling that of A. ispida, and its flight is exceedingly rapid. The eggs, taken on three occasions in April, were from 2 to 6 in number, laid on fish-bones at the end of a burrow, varying from 1 to 6 feet in length - in two cases in dark ravines through which a little water trickled in the rains, and in the third on the slope of a hill amongst the roots of a tree.

Alcedo euryzonaBroad-zoned Kingfisher

Alcedo euryzona, Temm. Pl. Cat. text to pl. 508 (1830); Horsf.& M.Cat. p.128; Sharpe, Mon. Alc, p.29, pl.8; Hume S.F.iii, p.318; Oates, B.B.ii, p.75; Sharpe, cat. B.M. xvii, p.154
Alcedo nigricans, Blyth, J.A.S.B. xvi, p.1180 (1847); id. cat. p.49; Hume & Dav., pp.81, 499; Hume, Cat. no. 135 bis; Bingham, S.F.ix, p.156

Coloration: Male. Crown and nape sooty black, with narrow faint greenish bars. Lores dull ferruginous. Cheeks and ear-coverts bluish black, mixed with dull green. A ferruginous or whitish band on each side of the neck, forming an imperfect collar. Middle of back and rump very pale blue, upper tail-coverts deeper blue. Scapulars and wings sooty black, the scapulars and coverts tipped and the inner quills edged near the base with greenish blue. Tail black, washed above with dark blue. Lower parts buffy white, a broad band of dull green across the breast, the feathers with white centres. Flanks dusky; wing-lining rufescent. Female. Lower parts ferruginous, chin and throat whitish; no band across breast; upper parts as in males.

Upper mandible black, lower very dark brown, paler at the base in males, dull vermilion in females; iris dark brown; feet milion (Davison).

Size: Length about 8;  tail 1.5;  wing 3.4; tarsus 0.48;  bill from gape 2.4

Distribution: Tenasserim, as far north as Muleyit east of Moulmein, also in the Malay peninsula, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo.

Habits: This is a rare and shy bird, found only on streams in deep forest, and apparently restricted in Tenasserim to the hills. It is generally seen in pairs, lives entirely, so far as is known, on fish, and has a note similar to that of A. ispida.

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