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Australian Kingfishers

I haven't been able to find a fully comprehensive list of Australian Kingfishers anywhere across the Internet. Maybe I didn't check long enough because I was keen to write my own review..


Australia is home to 10 species of kingfishers all found throughout most of the continent. They easily identified by their large head (in comparison to their body) and long, sharp, pointed bills. They usually catch prey by swooping down from a perch.

Most kingfishers are thought to be found near rivers and to eat fish only, a large number of species actually live away from water and eat small invertebrates in dry areas.


Below is my review of every Australia kingfisher.


Blue-winged and Laughing Kookaburra


Credit © Peter Lewis


Starting with Australia's big boys. The laughing kookaburra is one of the largest kingfishers in the world with Africa's Giant Kingfisher thought to be the largest.


The laughing kookaburra is slightly larger and has a longer bill than the blue-winged. Both kingfishers are found in northern and north-eastern Australia, however the laughing kookaburra also extends to south-eastern Australia. Both are quite famous for their loud cackling call which has been described as "maniacal laughter", but, the Blue-winged Kookaburra's is thought to lack the same sense of humour.


Whatever that may mean to you?!


Little Kingfisher


Credit © Laurie Ross


And now for Australia's smallest specie. The little kingfisher is a tiny blue and white kingfisher, it occurs beside rivers, lagoons, waterholes as well as in mangroves. They are mostly found in north-eastern Australia where they hunt prey from a perch above water.


Collared, Forest and Sacred Kingfisher



Credit © Saurabh Sawant, Mat Gilfedder and Lucas Brook

I have grouped these three species as they can quite often be mistakenly identified.

The Collared Kingfisher is the largest of the three and is dull olive-green with a white collar that extends to join the white underbody. It is often confused with the Sacred Kingfisher. The two are similar in shape but the Collared Kingfisher is considerably larger and has a longer and stockier bill. Also the underbody on the Sacred Kingfisher is buff as opposed to white on the two other species.

The Forest Kingfisher has a finer bill and is mostly dark blue with a pale turquoise back.


The Sacred Kingfisher is common throughout the coastal regions of of mainland Australia and less common in Tasmania. Forest and Collared Kingfishers are found in northern and northeastern Australia.


Although they are species of kingfisher, they very rarely eat fish. They mostly eat crabs, terrestrial prey, insects and a variety of smaller animals.


Azure Kingfisher



With royal-blue plumage and an orange underbody, the Azure kingfisher is one of the smallest and most dazzling species of Australia. They are found across northern and eastern Australia. They often plunge into water from a perch to catch prey.


Red-backed Kingfisher


Credit © Raphaël Nussbaumer


The Red-back Kingfisher occurs across most of the drier parts of Australia. It is easily recognised from it's red-rusty rump. It quite often perches high on dead trees.


Yellow-billed & Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher


Credit © Doug Herrington


These two last kingfishers are only found in tropical Far North Queensland and New Guinea. The Yellow-billed kingfisher is a small green kingfisher with an orange head and bright yellow bill. It is mostly found in wet rainforest.


Last but not least my pick of the bunch, the Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher.

It is a colourful kingfisher with a very long white tail, rusty-orange underparts and a bright red bill. They breed in far north Queensland and nest in burrows in termite mounds. In winter they migrate to New Guinea.

Amazing birds!


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© 2020 by Oliver Lavillette

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