Do All Kingfishers Actually Eat Fish?

Names can be misleading . . .

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

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.

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.

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.

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.

For BirdNote, I'm Michael Stein.



Written by Bob Sundstrom

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Dominic Black

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.

© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org 

July 2017   ID #: kingfisher-02-2015-07-20 kingfisher-02

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