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HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 6 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions, 2001 - ISBN: 848733430X

A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson. New Holland Publishers. ISBN: 9781780090498

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Black-capped Kingfisher
Halcyon pileata

Coraciiformes Order – Alcedinidae Family

Length: 28 cm
Weigth: 67-91 gr

The Black-capped Kingfisher often perches conspicuously on exposed poles. This species is common in mangroves and other coastal waters.

The adult has purple-blue upperparts with black upper mantle. On the wings, the covers are black, except the primary coverts which are deep blue. The primary flight feathers show white patch on bases, conspicuous in flight, and black tips. Secondary and tertial flight feathers are purple-blue. The uppertail is deep blue too.

On the underparts, chin, throat, neck, breast and upper belly are creamy-white. Lower belly, vent, undertail-coverts and underwing-coverts are orange-rufous. The flight feathers are blackish with white patch on primary bases. The rectrices are blackish too.

The head is black ending to a point on nape. There is a broad white collar, very conspicuous.
The large, thick bill is red. The eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are red.

Both sexes are similar.
The juvenile is duller. The collar is buffy and the breast shows dark vermiculations on sides of throat and breast. The bill is paler and duller, mostly brownish-orange.

The Black-capped Kingfisher utters a tremulous “tr-ee-o”.
On take-off, it gives a piercing alarm call. It usually gives ringing, high-pitched cackling “kikikikikiki”.


In temperate regions, the Black-capped Kingfisher is found near water in deciduous forest.
In the tropics and subtropics, it occurs in mangroves and wooded seashores. It also frequents inland and coastal wetlands such as lagoons, estuaries and ricefields. It is also found in open cultivated areas and forest clearings, and even in gardens.
This species is visible from lowlands up to 1500 metres of elevation, but it is usually below 600 metres in China.

The Black-capped Kingfisher breeds in India, C, E and S China, Korea and Taiwan, S to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, SW Myanmar, N Laos and Hainan.
It moves southwards in winter, to Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malay Peninsula, Greater Sundas, Sulawesi and S Philippines.   

The Black-capped Kingfisher feeds on great variety of food according to the habitat. Near the coast, it feeds mainly on crabs and fish. When inland, it takes numerous insect species and mainly those living near water (Odonata and Notonectidae). It catches some frogs and reptiles.

It usually hunts in open areas where it uses several exposed perches, between one and three metres above the ground or the water. It surveys the surroundings and often changes of perch. It rarely plunges into water for aquatic preys. It flies out and catches an insect in the vegetation or on the ground. It also takes preys from water. Crabs are caught at low tide in mudflats. It is a solitary hunter.     

The Black-capped Kingfisher is aggressive and territorial, and chases other kingfisher species away from its feeding area.

At the beginning of the breeding season, the male sings more frequently from exposed perches. In order to expose the white patches of the wings, it drops them or flicks them open in vertical plane.
Aerial displays are performed by the male, accompanied by loud calls.

The Black-capped Kingfishers of the northern parts of the range are migratory. Many of these migrations occur at night along usual routes. They show a strong fidelity to their winter areas.

The Black-capped Kingfisher performs fast and direct flight with whirring wings.

The breeding season occurs between April and June according to the range.
Once the territory is established and the nest-site chosen, both sexes defends this area against intruders. Both mates dig a tunnel in an earth bank or a termite mound. Such tunnel may size 50-100 cm long and 9-10 cm in diameter. The nest-chamber is at the end, with a diameter of about 35 cm and 9-15 cm high.

The female lays 4-5 rounded, white eggs. Both sexes incubate. Incubation and nesting periods are unknown, but usually for the largest species, the incubation lasts between 32 and 44 days. The chicks are fed by both parents which deliver the preys at nest. Later, the older chicks move along the tunnel and receive the food from adults at the entrance.  

The Black-capped Kingfisher feeds on great variety of preys such as crabs and fish on the coast. It beats the hard shell of the crabs with the bill to crush it before swallowing.
Inland, it takes insects such as Odonata, Notonectidae, Orthoptera, crickets, beetles and even bees and wasps. It may occasionally take some frogs and reptiles.

The Black-capped Kingfisher has wide range and frequents several types of habitats. The species is not currently threatened in spite of some declines due to habitat destruction in some parts of the range.