Alcedinidae - Genus Ceyx & Pelargopsis - Kingfishers

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

Page 40
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Genus CEYX, Lacepède, 1801

Bill intermediate in form between Alcedo and Halcyon, less compressed than in the former, not grooved; culmen straight and slightly flattened. Only three toes, the inner or second wanting. Tail very short and rounded. Plumage very bright, red often predominating. This is a genus of 18 species, ranging almost throughout the Oriental region and to the Papuan islands. One species is Indian.

Ceyx tridactylaIndian Three-toed Kingfisher

Alcedo tridactyla, Pallas, Spic. Zool. vi, p.10, pl. ii, fig.1 (1769)
Alcedo erithaca et purpurea, Gm, Syst. Nat. i, p.449 (1788)
Ceyx tridactyla, Jerdon, Ill. Ind. Orn. pl.25; id. B.I.i, p.229; Horsf.& M.Cat. p.391; Layard, A.M.N.H. (2) xii, p.172; Sharpe, Mon. Alc. p.119, pl.40; Hume, S.F.ii, p.173; iii, p.51; iv, p.287; v, p.19; xi, p.45; id. 133; Butler, S.F.ii, p.455; v, p.503; ix, p.383; Walden, Ibis 1874, p.137; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p.71; Hume & Dav., pp.80, 499; Godw.-Aust. J.A.S.B. xlvii, pt.2, p.14; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p.303; Bingham, S.F.viii, p.193; ix, p.155; Parker, S.F.ix, p.478; Oates, B.B.ii, p.80; Salvadori, Ann. Mus. Civ. Gen. (2) iv, p.587; vii, p.433; Barnes, Birds Bom. p.101; Oates in Hume’s N. & E. 2nd ed iii, p.13; Sharpe, Cat. B.M. xvii, p.174
Ceyx microsoma, Burton, P.Z.S. 1837, p.89
Ceyx erythaca, Blyth, Cat. p.50
Three-toed Purple Kingfisher, Jerdon; Dein-nygeen, Arrakan;  Punchi Mal-pelihuduwa, Cing

Coloration: A spot, pointed behind, at base of forehead black, washed with purple. Crown, nape, hindneck, lower back, rump, and upper tail-coverts orange-red, with a ruddy violet gloss, especially over the eye and on the rump and upper tail-coverts. A black spot before the eye. Lores, cheeks, ear-coverts, and lower parts from the throat orange-yellow. Chin and throat white. A deep blue spot behind the ear-coverts bordered behind by white. Scapulars and interscapulary region deep purplish blue. Wing dark brown outside, coverts tinged with deep blue. Edge of wing and smallest coverts, under wing-coverts, outer edge of first primary, and inner borders of all quills rufous. Tail orange-red.

Bill and feet bright vermilion-red; irides brown (Davison). In the young the bill is paler and shorter.

Size: Length about 5.5;  tail 1;  wing 2.2;  tarsus 0.3;  bill from gape 1.55

Distribution: Ceylon, rare; Carnatic and west coast of southern India according to Jerdon, but very rare; also some of the Sahyadri forests near Bombay. I find no other localities recorded in the Indian peninsula, but Jerdon says this species is scattered, though far from common, over all India. To the eastward this Kingfisher is found in lower Bengal, the Sikkim and. Bhutan Terai, Assam, Cachar, and the Burmese countries generally, with the Malay peninsula, and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Habits: A forest bird, usually found singly or in pairs by hill-streams, but sometimes away from water. It has a shrill piping note, and its food, so far as is known, consists of small fish perhaps also of water-insects. It breeds from May to August, often away from water, in a hole dug by itself, and it lays 4 to 6, or even 7, very small white eggs, less rounded than those of Alcedinidae in general.

Genus PELARGOPSIS, Gloger, 1842

Size large; back and rump pale blue, lower parts buff. Bill very large and strong; culmen flattened, perfectly straight, with a well- marked groove on each side. Third or fourth quill longest, first about equal to tenth. Tail much longer than bill, slightly rounded at the end. This genus ranges throughout the Oriental region; three species occur within the Indian area.

Key to Species
a. Wings and tail brown                                .... P. amauroptera
b. Wings and tail blue or greenish blue
   a’. No distinct brown cap; mantle blue        .... P. leucocephala
   b’. A distinct brown cap; mantle dull green  .... P. gurial

Pelargopsis amauropteraBrown-winged Kingfisher

Halcyon amauropterus, Pearson, J.A.S.B. x, p.635 (1841); Blyth, Cat. p.313; Horsf.& M.Cat. p.124; Jerdon, B.I.i, p.224; Blanf. Ibis, 1870, p.465; Cripps, S.F.vii, p.260
Pelargopsis amauroptera, Sharpe, P.Z.S. 1870, p.63; id. Mon. Alc. p.97, pl.30; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p.70; Armstrong, S.F.iv, p.305; Hume & Dav. p.73; Hume, Cat. no.128; Oates, B.B.ii, p.78; Sharpe, Cat. B.M. xvii, p.97

Coloration: Whole head, neck, and lower parts, including wing- lining, deep ochreous buff (brownish yellow); middle of back and rump bright pale blue; a narrow band across the upper back, scapulars, wings, upper tail-coverts, and tail dark brown. In young birds there are dusky edges to the buff feathers, especially on the hind neck and breast.

Bill deep crimson; irides brown; eyelids brick-red; legs scarlet (Cripps). The bill is black at the tip and for some distance up the culmen in immature birds.

Size: Length about 14 inches;  tail 4;  wing 5.8;  tarsus 0.7;  bill from gape 3.75

Distribution: On tidal rivers and creeks, brackish or salt, near the coast, from Bengal to a little south of Tenasserim; also occasionally, but rarely, near rivers above the tideway.

Habits: This Kingfisher is generally seen on salt-water creeks. It is a noisy bird with a harsh grating cry. Nidification unknown.

Pelargopsis leucocephalaNicobar Stork-billed Kingfisher

Alcedo leucocephala, Gm. Syst. Nat. 1, p. 456 (1788)
Pelargopsis leucocephala, Sharpe, P.Z.S.1870, p.64; id. Mon. Alc. p.99, pl.31
Pelargopsis fraseri, Ball, S.F.i, p.57; nec Sharpe
Pelargopsis intermedia, Hume, S.F.ii, p.166 (1874); id. 127 ter; Sharpe, S.F.ii, p.489; id. Cat.B.M. xvii, p.99

Coloration: Whole head, neck, and lower parts, including wing- lining, deep ochreous (brownish yellow); the crown spotted irregularly with brown from some of the feathers having dark brown centres, but there is no distinct cap; upper back, scapulars, wings above, longer upper tail-coverts, and tail above deep blue, slightly greenish on the upper back, scapulars, and wing-coverts; primaries, except the outer webs near the base, inner webs of secondaries, and lower surface of quills and tail-feathers dark brown; middle of back, rump, and anterior upper tail-coverts bright pale cobalt-blue.

Bill coral-red, dusky towards the tip; irides deep brown; orbital skin and feet bright orange-vermilion (Davison).

Size: Length about 15;  tail 4;  wing 6;  tarsus 0.65;  bill from gape 3.75

Distribution: Borneo and the Nicobar Islands. Specimens from the latter were distinguished by Hume under the name P. intermedia on account of being deeper in colour, especially on the back, and wanting the whitish throat. I find, however, that fine Bornean skins are not distinguishable.

Habits: A salt-water form, occasionally seen on the sea-shore, and haunting tidal creeks like P. amauroptera. Nidification unknown.

Pelargopsis gurialBrown-headed Stork-billed Kingfisher

Halcyon capensis, Jerdon, Madr. Jour. I. S. xi, p.231; Layard, A.M.N.H. (2) xii, p.171; nec L.
Halcyon gurial, Pearson, J.A.S.B. x p.632 (1841); Blyth, Cat. p.47; id. Ibis, 1865, p.30; Godw.-Aust. J.A.S.B. xxxix, pt.2, p.95
Halcyon bruniceps, Jerdon, Madr, Jour. I. S. xiii, pt. 2, p. 143 (1845).
Halcyon leucocephalus, Horsf.& M.Cat. p.123 B.I.i, p.222; McMaster, J.A.S.B. xl, pt.2, p.108 nec Gm.
Halcyon capensis, Walden, P.Z.S.1866 p.553; nec L.
Pelargopsis gurial, Sharpe, P.Z.S. 1870 p.66. id. Mon. Alc. p.105 pl.34; Ball, S.F.ii, p.386; vii, p.203 Fairbank S.F.iv, p.254; v p.394 Hume, S.F.v, p.18; xi p.44 id. 127; Cripps, S.F.vii, p.259; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p.295 ix, Vidal S.F.ix p.49; Reid, S.F.x, p.21; Davidson Ibid. p.296 Davison Ibid p.351; Barnes, Birds Bom. p.98; Littledale Jour. Bom. N.H. Soc.i, pp.32, 197; Oates in Hume’s N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p.11; Sharpe Cat.B.M. xvii, p.101
Pelargopsis burmanica, Sharpe, P.Z.S. 1870, p.67; id. Mon. Alc. p.109, pl.35; Ball, J.A.S.B. xli pt.2 p.277 id. S.F.i, p.57; Walden, Ibis, 1874, p.136; Hume, S.F.ii, p.165; iii, p.50; id. 127 bis; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p.70; Bingham S.F.v, p.83; ix, p.154; Hume & Dav., p.73; Oates B.B.ii, p.78; id in Hume’s N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p.12 Sharpe, Cat. B.M. xvii, p.104
Brown Kingfisher, Jerdon; Gurial Beng.;  Badami Kowrilla H.(Oude); Maha pelihuduwa, Waturanuwa, Cing.; Hsin-pay-nyin, Burm.

Fig 36 - head of P. gurial

Coloration: Crown, nape, and sides of head, including the cheeks and ear-coverts, brown, varying in shade from dark brown to (in some Burmese birds) whity-brown. Neck all round and lower parts, including wing-lining, varying from buff to deep brownish yellow, usually deeper on the breast and abdomen. Upper back, scapulars, wings, longer tail-coverts, and tail dull greenish blue. Quills and tail bluer. Primaries except outer webs towards the base, inner webs of secondaries, and lower surface of tail brown. Back, rump, and shorter tail-coverts bright pale blue.

In young birds the buff feathers of the neck and breast have dark edges; the end of the bill, too, is dusky. Bill dark blood-red; irides light brown; legs dull scarlet (Jerdon). Eyelids pinkish fleshy, the edges red (Oates).

Size: Length about 15;  tail 4;  wing 6;  tarsus 0.75; bill from gape 3.8.

The Burmese race has been distinguished as P. burmanica. Very many Burmese specimens have pale whity-brown caps and dark ochraceous lower parts, but birds in abundance occur throughout Burma that are absolutely undistinguishable from many Indian individuals. Very dark-headed birds are peculiar to India (the darkest are from the Malabar coast), but they are not a majority. The two races are not, I think, sufficiently distinct to be classed apart.

Distribution: Along rivers and streams and about large pieces of water in well-wooded countries almost throughout the Empire. Wanting in Rajputana, Sind, and the Punjab, and very rare in the open tracts of the North-west Provinces and Central India, on the Deccan tableland, and in the Carnatic; but occurring in Guzerat and throughout the Malabar coast and in Ceylon, in the wooded country between the Goddvari and Bengal, near the base of the Himalayas as far west as Dehradoon, and, still more commonly, in Bengal, Assam, Burma, and the Andaman islands. This Kingfisher ranges into the northern part of the Malay peninsula, and to Siam, Cambodia, and Cochin China. Farther south in the Malay peninsula it is represented by another race, P. fraseri.

Habits: Unlike the last two, this is chiefly a freshwater Kingfisher, though it may occasionally be seen on tidal streams. It is more often found on well-wooded rivers, large marshes, or tanks, perched on a branch overhanging the water, and plunging occasionally for fish. It also feeds on frogs, crabs, and it is said mollusca. According to Davison, it sometimes eats lizards. It has a loud peculiar cry several times repeated, generally uttered during flight. it breeds from April to June in northern India, earlier in the south, generally in a hole in the bank of a stream; but Mr. Cripps in Assam found a nest in a dead and rotten tree, and Major Bingham in Tenasserim obtained the eggs from a nest of grass-roots in the fork of a bamboo, and saw the parent bird distinctly. The eggs, 3 to 5 in number, are of the usual Kingfisher type, and measure about 1.17 by 1.05.

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