White-breasted kingfisher

   ›      ›   White-breasted kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis

The white-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) is a tree kingfisher, belonging to the family Alcedinidae.

These kingfisher species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, south China, southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt. The white-breasted kingfisher population is increasing owing to its ability to colonise new habitats. There are five recognized subspecies of these kingfisher species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of White-breasted Kingfisher Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The white-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) is a large kingfisher, measuring 27 to 28 cm in length and weighing 85 to 90 grams. The female is slightly larger and weighs up to 120 grams.

The plumage of white-breasted kingfisher is bright blue on the back, rump, wings and tail. The chin, throat and breast regions are whitish. The head, crown, nape, flanks, shoulders, belly and undertail are reddish brown. The bill is large and is deep red in color.

The feet of white-breasted kingfisher are reddish. The irises are reddish brown. The underside of the blue-black wing has large whitish patch. The wings are short and rounded. The females and males appear similar and the juveniles are duller in color when compared to the adults. The white-breasted kingfisher call is a loud "chake-ake-ake" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of White-breasted kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis
Birds of India - Image of White-breasted kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis by Manjith Kainickara

Birds of India - Photo of White-breasted kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis
Indian birds - Picture of White-breasted kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis by Yogendra Joshi
Indian birds - Image of White-breasted kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis
Birds of India - Photo of White-breasted kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis by JJ Harrison

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The white-breasted kingfisher species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, south China, southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

The white-breasted kingfisher nominate subspecies H. s. smyrnensis is distributed in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and northwest India. The subspecies H. s. saturatior is distributed in Andaman Islands (India).

The white-breasted kingfisher subspecies H. s. fokiensis is distributed in south and east China and Matsu and Kinmen islands of China. The subspecies H. s. perpulchra is distributed in eastern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia (Sumatra and Java).

The white-breasted kingfisher subspecies H. s. fusca is distributed in India (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, Goa and Tamil Nadu) and Sri Lanka.

Ecosystem and habitat

These white-breasted kingfisher species have low forest dependency. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 2000 meters.

These kingfisher species inhabit a wide range of artificial and natural ecosystems. They inhabit artificial ecosystems like urban areas and parks, rural gardens, agricultural fields, plantations, pasturelands, water storage areas, ponds, canals, drains and ditches.

The natural ecosystem of these kingfisher species includes tropical and subtropical dry forests, tropical and subtropical mangrove vegetation, tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, tropical and subtropical swamps, intertidal mudflats, rocky shoreline, sandy shoreline, beaches, peatlands and bogs.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these white-breasted kingfisher species is mostly large insects. Large crustaceans, large insects, scorpions, centipedes, snails, earthworms, small rodents (voles, mice and squirrels), small birds, small reptiles (lizards, chameleons and snakes), fish and amphibians (frogs and toads) are their primary food.

The white-breasted kingfisher species hunt their prey from a perch. They dive and catch the prey with the bill. After returning to the perch, the prey animal is battered before swallowing. The chicks are mostly fed with invertebrates.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of the white-breasted kingfisher is from April to July in India. The breeding season is in April and May in Europe. The breeding season is from December to August in Malaysia. The laying season is in March and April in Thailand, Sumatra, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

These white-breasted kingfisher species are generally monogamous. Courtship displays precede mating. Nesting sites include earthen banks of river and streams, termite mounds, old trees and sometimes even haystacks. The kingfisher pair dig inclined tunnel, 30 to 150 cm long, with their beaks.

The nest-tunnel ends in a wide incubating chamber. The typical white-breasted kingfisher clutch may contain four to seven white eggs. Both the parents incubate eggs and care for the young ones. The chicks hatch out in 20 to 22 days. The hatchlings lack feathers and are blind and helpless. The chicks fledge in about 20 days.

Migration and movement patterns

The white-breasted kingfisher species are non-migratory resident birds.

Post breeding, the juvenile white-breasted kingfisher may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

White-breasted kingfisher - Overview

  • Scientific name: Halcyon smyrnensis
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Synonyms/Protonym:Alcedo smyrnensis Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Alcedinidae › Coraciiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: White-breasted kingfisher, Chinese: 白胸翡翠, French: Martin-chasseur de Smyrne, German: Braunliest, Spanish: Alción de Esmirna, Russian: Красноклювая альциона, Japanese: アオショウビン, Malay: Burung Pekaka Belukar
  • Other names: Smyrna kingfisher
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, south China, southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, shrimp, fish, amphibians, small reptiles, crabs, small rodents and small birds
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The white-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) is closely related to the Javan kingfisher (Halcyon cyanoventris). It was earlier treated as conspecific with H. gularis.
The five recognized subspecies of white-breasted kingfisher are: H. s. smyrnensis (Linnaeus, 1758), H. s. fusca (Boddaert, 1783), H. s. perpulchra Madarász, 1904, H. s. saturatior A. O. Hume, 1874 and H. s. fokiensis Laubmann & Gotz, 1926.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the white-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these kingfisher species is considered to be increasing. Throughout its range it is reported to be generally common and locally abundant. The generation length is 3.8 years. Their distribution size is about 24,700,000 sq.km.

The white-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. The habitat degradation is the main threat that may endanger the survival of these kingfisher species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the kingfisher species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the white-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Halcyon smyrnensis
Species:H. smyrnensis
Binomial name:Halcyon smyrnensis
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/manjithkaini/4553191333/
Image author: Manjith Kainickara | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 3/18/17
2.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yogendra174/22694350009/
Image author Yogendra Joshi | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 3/18/17
3.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Halcyon_smyrnensis_1_-_Laem_Pak_Bia.jpg
Image author JJ Harrison | License: CC BY 3.0
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