Crested kingfisher

   ›      ›   Crested kingfisher - Megaceryle lugubris

The crested kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris) is a large water kingfisher belonging to the family, Alcedinidae.

The crested kingfisher species are distributed in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China, Japan and North Korea. The kingfisher population is declining due to ongoing habitat destruction and human disturbance. There are four recognized subspecies of these kingfishers.

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

Crested kingfisher - Overview

  • Scientific name: Megaceryle lugubris
  • Species author: (Temminck, 1834)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Alcedo lugubris Temminck, 1834
  • Family: Alcedinidae › Coraciiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Crested kingfisher, Chinese: 冠鱼狗, French: Martin-pêcheur tacheté, German: Trauerfischer, Spanish: Martín gigante asiático, Russian: Большой пегий зимородок, Japanese: ヤマセミ, Bengali: ঝুঁটিয়াল মাছরাঙা
  • Other names: Great Pied Kingfisher, Himalayan Pied Kingfisher
  • Distribution: India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China, Japan, North Korea
  • Diet and feeding habits: fish, crustaceans, amphibians, crayfish
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The crested kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris) is closely related to the giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima), ringed kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) and belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon).

The four recognized subspecies of Megaceryle lugubris are: Megaceryle lugubris lugubris (Temminck, 1834), Megaceryle lugubris continentalis (E. J. O. Hartert, 1900), Megaceryle lugubris guttulata (Stejneger, 1892) and Megaceryle lugubris pallida (Momiyama, 1927).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The crested kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris) is a very large kingfisher, measuring 40 to 45 cm in length and weighing 230 to 280 grams.

The overall plumage of the crested kingfisher is black and white. It has barred and snowy-flecked head, back, wings and tail. It has long crest feathers and the crest appears shaggy. It has a broad white collar.

The crested kingfisher has white underparts with black speckles and streaks here and there.The white breast is speckled and spotted black. In males there are some rufous wash and spotting on the breast. The flanks have gray barring.

When the crest is erect, the long forehead feathers appear vertical. There are two white patches on the otherwise black spotted and streaked crest. The bill is dark gray with white tip. The legs are pale gray. The irises are black. The crested kingfisher call is a loud "ket ket" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Crested kingfisher - Ceryle lugubris
Birds of India - Image of Crested kingfisher - Megaceryle lugubris by Tokumi

Birds of India - Photo of Crested kingfisher - Ceryle lugubris
Indian birds - Picture of Crested kingfisher - Megaceryle lugubris by Mprasannak

Indian birds - Image of Crested kingfisher - Ceryle lugubris
Birds of India - Photo of Crested kingfisher - Megaceryle lugubris by HIRO KOTA

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The crested kingfisher species are distributed in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China, Japan and North Korea. Vagrant birds have been recorded South Korea and Russia.

In India, these crested kingfisher species are distributed in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.

Ecosystem and habitat

These crested kingfisher species have moderate forest dependence. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 2800 meters.

The natural ecosystems of these crested kingfisher species include tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, temperate forests, tropical and subtropical moist montane forests, rivers, streams and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these crested kingfisher species is mostly fish. Crayfish, fish, crabs, shrimps, frogs and toads are their primary food. They are often seen perched on open tree branches or other suitable watch points close to the water. They plunge head first on locating a prey.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these crested kingfisher species in India and Nepal is from March to June. The breeding season is from April to July in Japan. The laying season in China is during the month of April.

These kingfisher species are monogamous and courtship precedes mating. They are highly territorial and the nesting sites are located on river banks and sand banks. The kingfisher pair excavate horizontal tunnel, which ends into an incubating chamber.

Both the parents incubate the eggs, the male incubating during the day and the female incubating during night. The typical clutch may contain 3-5 eggs. Both the parents take part in feeding the young.

Migration and movement patterns

The crested kingfisher species are altitudinal migrant birds. In Himalayas and in other high altitude habitats, these crested kingfisher species move to lower plains during winter to avoid snow and cold temperatures. However they do not make long distance migration and they are resident in their habitats.

Post breeding, the crested kingfisher juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the crested kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of this species is considered to be decreasing. Throughout its range it is reported to be widespread and common. The generation length is 4.2 years. Its distribution size is about 13,200,000

The crested kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris) 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 destruction and human disturbance are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these crested 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". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the crested kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Megaceryle lugubris
Species:M. lugubris
Binomial name:Megaceryle lugubris
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Tokumi | License: Public domain
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Mprasannak | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
3.Image source:
Image author: HIRO KOTA | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 as on 5/14/17
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