Kingfisher Shows Exactly How It Got Its Name

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: November 27, 2023
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This stunning clip shows a common Kingfisher demonstrating why it has been named the king of fishers! This beautiful bird enters the water with pinpoint accuracy and leaves with a fish snack. The fish is tiny, and the bird requires superb accuracy and timing to secure it at such a speed. These are some of the world’s most colorful birds and enter  the water at breakneck speeds. Kingfishers are in the Alcedines family of birds, and there are around 90 different species. They can be divided into true fishing kingfishers, forest kingfishers, and New World kingfishers.

Watch the Stunning Clip Now

Where Do Common Kingfishers Normally Live?

The bird in this clip is a common kingfisher and they are found throughout Europe and Asia as far east as Japan. They can also be spotted in Africa. Kingfisher populations that live further south do not migrate. However, the northern populations travel south during the winter to avoid freezing water! In most of Europe, this is the only kingfisher species that you will be able to see.

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It’s no surprise that these birds are always found near water. If you want one, it’s best to head for lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. While they are usually considered freshwater species, they have occasionally been seen near brackish waters, especially during winter. This is because their freshwater feeding areas are frozen.

What Type of Dive Do Kingfishers Normally Use?

Common European Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Kingfishers enter the water at 25 miles per hour.

©Rudmer Zwerver/

Kingfishers use a technique called plunge diving. It involves entering the water at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, which is potentially risky! Only a limited number of birds exhibit this behavior. The birds must dive at the right angle and speed and contract muscles correctly to avoid injury. Gulls and boobies also use this technique. Most animals would get a massive headache or even brain damage from doing this. Yet, kingfishers emerge from the water unscathed. Recent research has shown that these birds have tiny structures within the brain that may protect them from repeated impacts.

What Do Common Kingfishers Normally Eat?

Common kingfishers carefully watch for prey from a perch which may only be a couple of inches above the water surface. Once they spot a fish, they dive in to grab it and then fly back out, as seen in this clip. If no perches are available, they resort to hovering above the water. Small fish make up most of their diet but may also eat small arthropods; some have been seen eating crabs!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © CreativeNature_nl/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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