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Most Kingfishers Don't Fish

One of the world’s most charismatic groups of birds
© Peter Steward - FCC View Large

In North America, kingfishers fish. But in tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Australia, most of the roughly 90 species of kingfishers don’t “fish.” They hunt in woodlands, where the smaller ones, like the four-inch Pygmy Kingfisher, eat grasshoppers and centipedes. Larger kingfishers will take frogs, reptiles, small mammals, and even snakes. This Pied Kingfisher, found in Africa and Asia, does eat fish.

Did you know that Australia’s Laughing Kookaburra is a member of the kingfisher family? It has been known to dispatch snakes up to three feet in length. 

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Most Kingfishers Don’t Fish

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Belted Kingfisher call, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/100770, 0.08-.09]

Kingfishers. They fish. Right? The clue’s in the name. Over most of the waters of North America, it’s the Belted Kingfisher. Europe’s single species is the small, brilliant blue, much beloved Common Kingfisher. [Common Kingfisher calls, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/56433, 0.05-.07] 

But when you hit tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and — especially — the vicinity of Australia, it’s clear that despite the group name, most of the roughly 90 species of kingfishers don’t “fish.” They hunt in woodlands, where the smaller ones, like the four-inch pygmy kingfisher, will eat grasshoppers and centipedes, and the larger ones will take frogs, reptiles, small mammals, and even snakes. [Laughing Kookaburra, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/6582] 

Yup. Australia’s Laughing Kookaburra is a member of the kingfisher family. And it’s been known to dispatch snakes up to three feet in length. [Laughing Kookaburra, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/6582]

No matter whether the kingfisher you see is wrangling a snake or plunging for a fish, you’ll be looking at a member of one of the world’s most charismatic groups of birds [Laughing Kookaburra, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/6582]

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Belted Kingfisher [100770] recorded by W L Hershberger. Common Kingfisher [56643]recorded by Scott Connop. Laughing Kookaburra [6582] recorded by F N Robinson
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org   July 2017   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID #: kingfisher-02-2015-07-20 kingfisher-02

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