21 April 2012

Pied Kingfisher

The Pied Kingfisher is a water Kingfisher, which is widely distributed in India mainly on the plains. I have seen a number of Pied Kingfishers recently at the Samudram Erie (at the foot of Arunachala). And in my opinion this is one of the most unique and fascinating birds of the area. 

The Pied Kingfisher is estimated to be the world’s third most common Kingfisher. Not only is the Pied Kingfisher the largest bird capable of a true hover in still air, it is also the only Kingfisher with all black and white plumage

Male Pied

Adult Pied

Males have a double band across the breast while females have a single gorget that is often broken in the middle. This Kingfisher is about 17 cm long and in size between a Mynah and a Pigeon. It also has the typical, stout, dagger-shaped bill associated with other species of Kingfisher.  

Female Pied

This bird is usually found in pairs or small family parties. When perched, it often bobs its head and flicks up its tail. 

Pair of Pied Kingfishers

This bird frequents rivers, jheels, irrigation tanks and tidal creeks and can usually be seen perched on a favourite rock or stake near the water.  The Pied Kingfisher feeds mainly on fish, although it will take frogs, crustaceans and large aquatic insects such as dragonfly.

Pied Courtship Feeding

It usually hunts by hovering over the water to detect prey and diving vertically down bill-first to capture fish. When not foraging, they have a straight rapid flight and have been observed flying at nearly 32 mph. They call often on the wing, with sharp chirruk chirruk notes.

Female Pied Kingfisher Hovering

Its chief characteristic is its unique way of fishing. It hovers stationary for considerable periods, 10m or so above the water, ‘standing on its tail’, and hurls itself, wings pulled in at the sides, at fish coming up within striking depth. On emergence with the quarry, the bird flies off to a convenient rock where the victim is battered before being swallowed.

However the Pied Kingfisher can deal with prey without returning to a perch, often swallowing small victims  in flight, and thus can hunt over large water bodies or in estuaries that lack perches that are required by other Kngfishers. 

Male Pied Kingfisher Hovering

Unlike some other Kingfishers, the Piedi is quite gregarious, and forms large roosts at night.  The breeding season is February to April. Its nest is a hole excavated in a vertical mud bank about five feet above water. The nest tunnel is 4 to 5 feet deep and ends in a chamber. Several birds may nest in the same vicinity. The usual clutch is 3-6 white eggs. Both sexes share excavation, and feeding the young

For a superb link with videos and photographs of the Pied Kingfisher go to this link here.

Amazing Video of Pied Kingfisher catching fish 
The Pied Kingfisher is extremely agile in the air and hovers far more often than other kingfishers. In flight, it holds the body almost vertical, with the head and bill angled sharply downwards, and beats the wings extremely rapidly.  Kingfishers beat the reaction time of a fish by 1/50th of a second. Hunting fish from the air, it seems, is harder than it looks for the birds. Amazing rare nature photography in this video from BBC Worldwide.

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