Blyth's kingfisher

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The Blyth's kingfisher (Alcedo hercules), the largest of the Alcedo species, belongs to the family of kingfishers, Alcedinidae.

These species of kingfishers are distributed in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. The Blyth's kingfisher is named to commemorate Edward Blyth (23 December 1810 – 27 December 1873), an English zoologist. These birds are monotypic species.

Blyth's kingfisher - Overview

  • Scientific name: Alcedo hercules
  • Species author: Laubmann, 1917
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Alcedo hercules Laubmann, 1917
  • Family: Alcedinidae › Coraciiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Blyth's kingfisher, Chinese: 斑头大翠鸟, French: Martin-pêcheur de Blyth, German: Herkuleseisvogel, Spanish: Martín pescador hércules, Russian: Большой голубой зимородок, Japanese: オオカワセミ
  • Other names: Blyth's Kingfisher, Great Blue Kingfisher, A. grandis
  • Distribution: Bangladesh, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam
  • Diet and feeding habits: mainly fish, insects occasionally
  • IUCN status listing: Near Threatened (NT)
The Blyth's kingfisher is closely related to Alcedo grandis and Alcedo meninting.

Appearance, physical description and identification

The Blyth's kingfisher (Alcedo hercules) is a small bird measuring about 23 cm in length. The male has black head feathers with glossy deep blue tips. The upperparts and uppertail-coverts are deep greenish blue. There is light blue speckling on the wings. The throat and chin are buffy-white. The breast and abdomen are reddish brown with scattered white streaks. There is a pale buff neck patch on these kingfishers.

The Blyth's kingfisher bill is long and much flattened vertically (compressed). The distinguishing feature between male and female kingfisher is the color of the beak. It is entirely black in males and in females there is a buff coloration in the base of lower mandible. The irises are black. The lore is black with a very pale reddish streak above. The legs are short and pinkish red with four toes on each foot. Their call in flight is a loud “pseet” sound.
Indian birds - Blyth's kingfisher - Alcedo hercules
Birds of India - Blyth's kingfisher - Alcedo hercules

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The Blyth's kingfisher is distributed in Northeast India (North West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur), Bangladesh (vagrant), Southeast Nepal (vagrant), China (Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong and Hainan island), Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of Blyth's kingfisher in Laos are, Eastern Bolikhamxay Mountains, Nakai Plateau, Nakai-Nam Theun, Nam Et, Nam Xam, Phou Dendin, Phou Loeuy and Xe Sap. The IBA in Vietnam is Kon Cha Rang.

Ecosystem and habitat

These Blyth's kingfisher species are moderately forest dependent. They inhabit various ecosystems with nearness to flowing water sources. They inhabit subtropical and tropical forests, moist lowlands, inland wetlands, rivers, streams, creeks, waterfalls, valleys and ravines. These kingfisher species are also found in highlands with elevations up to 1,200 meters.

Diet and feeding habits

The diet of the Blyth's kingfisher is mostly fish. Occasionally they may catch a frog. However, remains of insects have been found in the nests. Probably, it may be taking insects also. These kingfisher species perch on the low branch of a tree or shrub overhanging a river or stream. On spotting a fish, they dive into the water to catch the prey. The Blyth's kingfisher may use the same perch repeatedly for perching and gulping the fish and for diving for the prey.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these Blyth's kingfisher species is from March to June in Northeast India with a peak in April-May. The kingfisher nest is built on the river bank, by tunnelling. The clutch contains up to 6 eggs. Both the parents take turn in incubating the eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

These Blyth's kingfisher species are resident sedentary birds. Post breeding dispersal of juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of the Blyth's kingfisher (Alcedo hercules) has not been quantified. The population in China has been estimated in 2009 at fewer than 200 birds. The overall kingfisher population size is considered to be under slow decline. There is considerable riverine habitat loss. Their generation length is 4.4 years. These kingfisher species have moderate range and small, scarce population.

The Blyth's kingfisher is slowly approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and also under the population size criterion. Deforestation and logging are leading to fragmentation of the habitats and are threatening the survival of these kingfisher species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the Blyth's kingfisher (Alcedo hercules) and has listed it as "Near Threatened" from the year 2000.

Taxonomy and scientific classification of Alcedo hercules
Species:A. hercules
Binomial name:Alcedo hercules
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened
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