When I say kingfisher, almost everyone would be able to think of one bird in their minds. It would look something like this:
Whether we have a brand to thank for it, or whether it is a common sighting in the country, I do not know. But it is quite common for people to know of the Kingfisher bird (known as Khandya in Marathi).
As the name suggests, we attribute these birds to be good fishers and assume fishes to be the primary diet of these birds. But this is not so. In fact, Kingfishers are quite diverse in terms of their looks, diets and habitats. This post is to give a glimpse of the diversity that exists among kingfishers in India.
The White-throated Kingfisher is as common or sometimes more common than the “Common Kingfisher”. As the name suggests, it has a distinct white throat and brown head and is much bigger in size than the Common Kingfisher. The diet of the White-throated Kingfisher is diverse and I have even seen it smack a rat on the wall repeatedly to kill a rat before eating it!
Then come the more uncommon and specialised species of Kingfishers.
Pied Kingfishers are black and White birds which are smaller than the White-throated Kingfishers. They have black beaks and really seem to give Kingfishers a twist in terms of their looks.
One species that looks similar in colour to the Pied Kingfisher is the Crested Kingfisher.
Crested Kingfishers are the biggest in size among all the Indian Kingfishers. They have this wave of feathers on their head (crest) which you cannot miss, giving it an ultra “cool” look! Both the Pied and Crested are the only ones that are two-coloured. All the rest are multi-coloured.
Then you have smaller kingfishers like the Blue-eared Kingfisher.
This one looks quite similar to the Common Kingfisher, but notice that the region behind the eye is blue-coloured. Also, the “blue” of this bird has a more indigo tinge to it. The Blue-eared Kingfisher is restricted to only some regions of India. So if you think you saw a small kingfisher, it is likely to be the Common Kingfisher and not the Blue-eared.
This is another big sized kingfisher and its beak is huge! The wings are a shade of greenish-blue.
Then comes one of my favourites, the Black-capped Kingfisher. This one is mostly found near coasts and mangroves. Among all the kingfishers found in India, I find the blue colour of this one the most majestic!!
Then you have the Collared Kingfisher, sporting a blend of greens and blues who eat more than just fish as you can see in the photo!
The Brown-winged Kingfisher is seen specially in mangrove habitats. They are famously sighted in Bhitarkanika area (Odisha) along with 7 other species of Kingfishers!
And then, comes the show-stopper.
The Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher is among the most coveted species of Kingfishers. Active during monsoons, hundreds of bird-watchers flock to see these colourful gems during the breeding season (unfortunately much to the disturbance of the bird). But only seeing the bird can do justice to the colours. There is purple, pink, orange, yellow, blue and this burst of colours can be captured only with our eyes!
Apart from those mentioned above, there is also the Ruddy Kingfisher, a mangrove specialist and the Blyth’s Kingfisher, both of which one can say are among the rarest of the Kingfisher family. I have personally not seen them, but fingers crossed!
Kingfishers come in many sizes, colours, and eat much more than just fish! So there you have it, a dozen of kingfishers for you!
Thanks to Ashwin Mohan for his inputs.
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My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.