1035. Alcedo ispida.
The Common Kingfisher.
Alcedo ispida, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 179 (1766); Sharpe, Mon. Alc. p. 1, pl. i; Hume, S. F. i, p. 168; id. Cat. no. 134 bis; Blanf. Fast. Pers. ii, p. 121; Butler, S. F. v, p. 208 ; Murray, Vert. Zool. Sind, p. 111; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 102; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xvii, p. 141. Alcedo bengalensis, Gm. Syst. Nat. i, p. 450 (1788); Blyth, Cat. p. 49; Horsf. & M. Cat. p. 129; Adams, P. Z. S. 1858, p. 474; 1859, p. 174; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 230; Hume & Henders. Lah. to Yark. p. 178; Hume, S. F. i, p. 168; ii, p. 173; xi, p. 46; id. Cat. no. 134; Blyth Wald. Birds Burm. p. 71; Anders. Yunnan Exped., Aves, p. 580; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 81; Cripps, S. F. vii, p. 260; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 292; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 72; id. in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 1; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 101. Alcedo sindiana, Hume, S. F. i, p. 168.
The Common Indian Kingfisher, Jerdon; Chota kilkila, Nita or Nika machrdla, H.; Khandu, Khandya, Mahr.; Chota-machranga, B.; Tint Konu, Tuntu, Kashmiri; Ung-chin. Lepcha; Nila buche gadu, Tel.; Dane-nyin, Burm.
Coloration. Crown and nape transversely banded dusky black and blue ; lores and a band below the eye to the ear-coverts deep ferruginous, ending in a white or rufous-white patch at the side of the neck; lower edge of lores black, a broad stripe from the lower mandible down each cheek blue; middle of back, rump, and upper tail-coverts bright blue; scapulars and wing-coverts greenish blue, each of the lesser and median coverts tipped with a bright blue spot; quills brown, edged outside with greenish blue; tail blue above, brown beneath; lower parts deep ferruginous, sometimes paler, always whitish or white on chin and throat. Some birds are a greener blue than others. Young birds are duller in colour and have the lower parts tinged with ashy.
Bill black; basal half of lower mandible in females red or orange ; iris dusky brown; feet coral-red (Sharpe).
Length about 7; tail 1.4; wing 2.75 to 3.1 ; tarsus .37; bill from gape 1.9.
In accordance with the latest views of Dr. Bowdler Sharpe, who has made a special study of Kingfishers, I have united the Indian Kingfisher with the European and Central Asiatic bird. The former has long been distinguished as A. bengalensis, on account of its small size; but unquestionably the two pass into each other, and the difference in size is probably due to a very common peculiarity that tropical races (or perhaps southern races) in Asia are smaller than those of temperate regions.
Distribution. Throughout Europe and Asia, extending to the Malay Archipelago. In the British Indian area, this bird is only wanting in the Himalayas, where it is rarely met with far above the base of the mountains, though it abounds in Kashmir. It is of course most common in well-watered countries and comparatively rare in forest-tracts. The smaller race A. bengalensis occurs throughout South-eastern Asia; the larger, typical A. ispida only occurs within Indian limits in Sind and Baluchistan, but intermediate forms are common.
Habits, &c. The Common Kingfisher frequents streams of all sizes, marshes, tanks, irrigation-channels, road-side ditches, flooded paddy-fields, and even the sea-shore, anywhere, in fact, where small fish may be found, and perches on a tree or stump, and very often on a reed, or any post of vantage overlooking the water; from its perch it plunges after its prey. It lives mainly on fish, occasionally on tadpoles or water-insects, but it is rarely, if ever, seen away from water. Very often these little Kingfishers are in pairs and they are exceedingly pugnacious, each pair driving away all others of the same species. It has a peculiar whistling cry or call, frequently uttered. Its flight is very swift and straight, generally just above the surface of the water. It breeds in India from January to June, earlier in the South of India than in the North, but in some parts it breeds at other seasons. It digs in a bank immediately over water, usually a stream, a narrow hole, about 2 feet in depth and rarely more than 2 inches in diameter, terminating in a chamber about 5 inches in diameter and 3 or 4 high, in which 5 to 7 eggs are laid, very often on a few fish-bones. The eggs are white and glossy and measure .8 by .68.