Azure Kingfisher Click to enlarge image
The Azure Kingfisher is a small kingfisher with a long slender black bill and a short tail. The head, neck, upper parts and breast sides are deep azure blue with a violet (purplish) sheen. Image: Gary Leavens
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    azurea
    Genus
    Alcedo
    Family
    Alcedinidae
    Order
    Coraciiformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    17 cm to 19 cm

The Azure Kingfisher nests in a burrow dug out of a river bank.

Identification

The Azure Kingfisher is a small kingfisher with a long slender black bill and a short tail. The head, neck, upper parts and breast sides are deep azure blue with a violet (purplish) sheen. The neck has a distinctive orange stripe on each side and there is a small orange spot before each eye. The throat is pale orange-white, grading to orange-reddish on belly and undertail. The flanks and sides of the breast are washed purple to violet. The legs and feet are red. The sexes are similar. Young birds have a darker cap and are generally duller.

Habitat

The Azure Kingfisher is never far from water, preferring freshwater rivers and creeks as well as billabongs, lakes, swamps and dams, usually in shady overhanging vegetation. It is sometimes seen in parks on rivers, as well as duck or goldfish ponds in urban areas.

Distribution

The Azure Kingfisher is found across northern and eastern Australia, as well as in the Moluccas and Lesser Sundas (Indonesia), New Guinea and surrounding islands. In Australia, it is found from the Kimberley region, Western Australia, across the Top End to Queensland, and is widespread east of the Great Dividing Range to the Victorian border and south into Victoria.



Feeding and diet

The Azure Kingfisher plunges from overhanging perches into water to catch prey. Prey items include: fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects and other invertebrates, and, sometimes, frogs. They will often bash their prey against the perch before swallowing it head first. Often watch Platypuses foraging underwater and catch any food items that are disturbed.

Communication

Usually silent, but has high thin whistle when flying: 'pee-ee, pee-ee'.

Breeding behaviours

Azure Kingfishers form monogamous pairs that defend a breeding territory. Both parents incubate and feed the chicks. The nest is at the end of a burrow dug out of soil in a riverbank. The tunnel slopes upwards to the nesting chamber and can be 80 cm - 130 cm long. Flooding can destroy low-lying burrows.

  • Breeding season: September to January
  • Clutch size: 4 to 7, usually 5
  • Incubation: 21 days
  • Time in nest: 28 days

Conservation status

Stock trampling vegetation around waterholes affects the Azure Kingfisher. Human activities that cause artificial flooding of waterways can drown nests. Water that is turbid (not clear) and the introduction of European Carp (which competes for food resources) can also adversely affect local populations.

References

  • Higgins, P.J. (ed) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 4 (Parrots to Dollarbird). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Strahan, R. (ed) 1994. Cuckoos, Nightbirds and Kingfishers of Australia. Angus and Robertson/Australian Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Morcombe, M. 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.

Azure Kingfisher
The Azure Kingfisher plunges from overhanging perches into water to catch prey. Prey items include: fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects and other invertebrates, and, sometimes, frogs. Image: Jack Purnell
© Australian Museum