This Fisherman Doesn’t Need a Pole

Male Amazon Kingfisher

Beware all fish, the mighty Kingfisher has set its sights onto you!  There are over 90 species in the kingfisher family and in general they all have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, stubby tails, and short legs.  All kingfishers have binocular-like vision with restricted eye movement, which allows for tracking fish underwater.  Kingfishers are able to compensate for reflection and refraction of the water and can judge water depth very accurately.  Generally Kingfishers are found throughout the world’s tropics and temperate regions.  The most unique species of the kingfisher family is the Pied Kingfisher because of all the surprising things it can do.

The Pied Kingfisher is rougly 17 cm long and is most notable for its ability to hover and catch prey without flying to a perch.  The Pied Kingfisher is normally found in Africa and Southern Asia.  This bird flies over bodies of water looking for fish to snatch up.  When hunting, the Pied Kingfisher usually hovers over the water and dives vertically, bill first, into the water to catch its prey.  The Pied Kingfisher can hunt over large bodies of water because of its unique feature of being able to consume its prey during flight.  After catching a fish, the kingfisher can just hover in the air while swallowing its food.  One exception to this is when the prey they catch is too big.  If the fish is too big then the kingfisher must return to a perch in order to break it apart with its sharp, pointed bill.  To allow travel underwater, the Pied Kingfisher has a bony plate which slides across its eyes when it hits the water.

A Pied Kingfisher hovering and then diving into the water to catch a fish






Pied Kingfisher's wings while hovering

The wing of the Pied Kingfisher is actually very interesting.  The wing allows for quick wingbeats and thus allows hovering, but also allows for underwater diving in order to catch its food supply.  The hovering of the Pied Kingfisher looks very similar to that of a Kestrel.  The Kestrel as well as the Pied Kingfisher use the wind in order to hover in the air and track its prey.  Once prey is found, they dive downwards out of their hovering state to catch it.


This is a video of the Pied Kingfisher catching a fish in a split second!

Works Cited

1. Kingfisher – Wikipedia

2. Pied Kingfisher – Wikipedia

3. Pied Kingfisher – Avian Web

One Comment

Galen Perry posted on December 6, 2012 at 12:18 am

It’s so cool how the kingfisher is not only able to hover, but it can control its dive such that it can pull out if the fish gets away. Awesome post.