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Sacred kingfisher

Todiramphus sanctus

Photo by Chris Wynne (Flickr)

Common name:
sacred kingfisher (en); guarda-rios-sagrado (pt); martin-chasseur sacré (fr); alción sagrado (es); götzenliest (de)

Order Coraciiformes
Family Alcedinidae

This species breeds throughout most of mainland Australia, as well as in New Zealand and in western Melanesia as fas east as Fiji. The populations in southern Australia migrate north to winter in Papua-New Guinea and throughout Indonesia.

These birds are19-23 cm long and weigh 30-60 g.

The sacred kingfisher is mosty found in tropical forests, such as in Eucalyptus woodlands and rainforests, but also in other types of open forest, Acacia scrublands, Melaleuca swamps, grasslands with scattered trees, mangroves, coastal lakes and lagoons, both sandy and rocky coastlines, rural gardens, arable land, plantations and urban parks.

They hunt by pouncing on their prey from a perch, taking a wide range of prey including
a wide range of insects and other invertebrates, such as spiders, centipedes, worms and crustaceans, but also small vertebrates including fishes, tadpoles and frogs, lizards, snakes, birds and mice.

Sacred kingfishers are monogamous and pair bonds possibly last several years. They breed in September-March and nest in a tree hollow or in a tunnel excavated by both sexes in a bank, cliff or even a termite mound. the female lays 3-7 eggs which are incubated by both parents for 16-21 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 24-29 days after hatching, but continue to receive food from the parents for another 7-10 days. Each pair usually raises 2 broods per season, but they may not breed during drought years.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and although there are no reliable population estimated the population is suspected to be increasing owing to opening up of forest areas and road building which has provided an increase in suitable nesting sites.

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