COmmon Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis


  • Order: Coraciiformes
  • Family : Alcedinidae
  • Genus : Alcedo
  • Species : atthis

binomial name

  • Linnaeus, 1758


  • Size: 16 cm
  • Wingspan : 24 to 26 cm
  • Weight : 30 to 45 g


15 years



XC : Manuel Grosselet

The usual call of the European Kingfisher, or at least the one that is best and most frequently heard, is a strong and incisive “siii” that is somewhat reminiscent of the call of the Common Goldfinch, but much more powerful and repeated. It is by this call that the bird announces itself when it arrives in flight like a blue arrow above the water.
The song is a succession of shrill whistles of slightly varying frequency.
A high-pitched, vibrating “tri tri tri tri tri…” is used to impose on a fellow bird or to repel an intruder.
The young beg at the nest with incessant rolled cries of low tone.

To learn more.




The European Kingfisher is a small Old World alkedinid with blue and russet plumage, like many members of the family, and the only one to have this appearance over most of its Eurasian range.
The sexual dimorphism is weak. The adult has the entire upper parts blue, particularly bright blue from the mantle to the supracaudals. The scapulars and the wing covers are darker, shaded with green and punctuated with light blue. The lower parts are bright red except for the white to cream throat. The head pattern is remarkable. The upper surface is blue shaded with green and clearly speckled. The blackish loral area includes a reddish patch. The eye is dark. The reddish auricular zone, bordered of blue below, is typical of the species. On the sides of the neck a white collar is outlined.
In mating season, the dagger-like bill is entirely black in adult males, black with the base of the lower mandible orange in adult females. The small legs, typical of the family, are red-green.
The seven subspecies described show only minimal differences in size and color.
The juvenile is overall duller, whether the upper parts, less blue and more green, or the lower parts of a less bright red with at the beginning the breast darkly marked with brownish. The blackish bill has a whitish tip and the legs are pinkish.


The Kingfisher of Europe frequents the edge of the waters that they are stagnant or current. These waters can be very diverse, but they must especially be very fishy, rich in small fish of a size adapted to its own. The water must be clear enough for him to fish efficiently. It also needs a riparian vegetation on which it can stand in search of its preys, even if it can occasionally practice a hovering of location. The environment can be natural or completely artificial. Thus, the numerous ballast pits resulting from the extraction of aggregates, recolonized by vegetation and stocked, constitute new territories for the species.
For the cavernicolous reproduction typical of the species, the kingfisher must have at its disposal easily accessible “fronts of size”, quite frequent along running waters, in which it will be able to dig with its beak the horizontal tunnel of nesting which it will widen at its end to accommodate the nest. The substrate must be favorable to the digging but neither too crumbly to hold in time, nor too stony. A sandy-silty substrate is a kind of ideal.
Along the rivers, the kingfisher usually finds shelter and cover. However, this is not always the case for water bodies. There may be a distance between the fishing areas and the nesting site. Kingfishers are capable of finding a suitable terrestrial nesting site up to a few hundred meters from the water by flying overland.
Sedentary populations remain on the same waters all year round and it is the erratic young of the year that ensure the dispersion of the species and the mixing of the population. On the other hand, for the populations subjected to a continental climate with cold winters, migration is de rigueur. The wintering areas are distinct from the nesting areas and the migratory routes can reach several thousand km. In this season, these kingfishers are willingly coastal and frequent rocky shores, estuaries, lagoons, ports, mangroves, etc..

THREATS – protection

The species, widely distributed, is not globally threatened. It is even reported to be increasing locally, for example south of the Baltic, perhaps due to the effect of global warming. However, it is conceivable that with an ever-increasing human footprint on nature, a certain number of populations will decline in the long term.
It is a species sensitive to the conditions of its environment. The increasing pollution of rivers associated with a lack of rainfall has a negative impact on the fish resource, its main food. In addition, all the developments that affect the naturalness of the river banks have a negative impact on the availability of nesting sites.
Climatic hazards are known to severely affect exposed populations. This was the case, for example, during the winter of 1962-63 which was exceptionally cold in Europe. Sedentary kingfisher populations were decimated. Fortunately, after such an accident, they recover thanks to the survivors and find more or less quickly their original level.

Source :
Retrouvez toute la fiche espèce rédigée par Jean François

La Gallerie

Plus d’oiseaux