Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Alcedo atthis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Species:A. atthis
Common Names:Common Kingfisher, Raja Udang, Burung Pekaka Cit-cit
Status:Common winter visitor


This little kingfisher has greenish-blue upperparts.The crown and back of head is greenish-blue, finely barred with black. The lores are chestnut, with white nearer the eyes. Ear coverts are rufous. Cheeks are greenish-blue. Back, rump and uppertail coverts are silvery blue. Tail greenish-blue. Wing coverts greenish-blue. Lesser, median coverts speckled with pale silvery blue. Chin and throat is white. The rest of the underparts is rufous.  

Females are slightly duller and has a different coloured lower mandible. Immatures are much duller, with lores and ear covert, whitish, tinged with rufous.

Soft parts: Iris is dark brown. Tarsus and soles are orange-red. Upper mandible is blackish-brown, tipped paler. Lower mandible is pale orange, tipped pale brown. In females, the lower mandible is dull red.

Size: 15.2–15.9 cm; Weight: 26.0 g; Bill: 36.6–45.7 mm; Tarsus: 8.4–11.0 mm; Wing: 69–73 mm; Tail: 30–36 mm

Similar to the Blue-eared Kingfisher and differs from it by its greenish-blue upperparts and rufous ear coverts.

Read more about the Coraciiformes order.
Read more about the Alcedinidae family.


Breeds in N Africa, temperate Eurasia from the Atlantic to Sakhalin and Japan, China to the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka to SE Asia to N Sumatra, Wallacea, New Guinea


Found throughout Singapore and its offshore islands.

General Biology

The Common Kingfisher is more strictly confined to water than other species of kingfishers and may be found in open streams, canals, reservoirs, ponds and coastal rivers. It is usually found perched (slightly hunched) on a branch or pole above water, and returns to the same perch time after time. It often bates in the water, to return to the perch to preen, thus keeping its feathers in good condition.

It has a shrill but feeble whistle, usually uttered in flight. The flight is low and swift.


The Common Kingfisher eats mainly small fish. When a prey is spotted, the kingfisher is capable of hovering for a few seconds, with head bent down, before diving into the water. The prey is brought back to the perch and beaten on the branch. The kingfisher often balances the prey in its bill before swallowing it whole. It is also known to eat tadpoles and crustaceans like prawns. In the case of prawn it was observed casting a pellet after eating it.

Life Cycle

This species does not breed in Singapore.

Ecological Role

Predator of small fishes.


A very widespread and common winter visitor, arriving in Singapore in mid-August and reaching a peak in October. The spring passage peaks in March, staying til mid-May.

Earliest date recorded: 14 Aug; Latest date recorded: 14 May

Formal records of Alcedo atthis collected from Singapore:

American Natural History Museum: 1 (1 ♂)
British Musuem: 10 (2 ♀♀, 6 ♂♂, 2 unsexed)
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research: 6 (4 ♀♀, 1 ♂, 1 imm)
United States National Museum: 3 (2 ♀♀, 1 ♂)
University of Washington Burke Museum: 1 (1 ♀)

Other Resources

Sreedharan, S. Birds of Singapore: Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). http://singaporebirds.net/npassers_01/common_kingfisher.html. (Accessed December 2011).

Tsang, K. C. 2008. Common Kingfisher Handling Fish. http://www.besgroup.org/2008/11/06/common-kingfisher-handling-fish/. (Accessed December 2011).


Bucknill, J. A. S. & F. N. Chasen, 1927. Birds of Singapore and South-east Asia. Tynron Press, Scotland. 247 pp.

Chasen, F. N., 1939. The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. Vol. IV: The Birds of the Low-country Jungle and Scrub. H. F. & G. Witherby Ltd., London. 487 pp.

Gibson-Hill, C. A., 1949a. An annotated checklist of the birds of Malaya. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum, 20: 5–299.

Gibson-Hill, C. A., 1949b. A checklist of the birds of Singapore Island. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum, 21: 132–183.

Madoc, G. C., 1956. An Introduction to Malayan Birds. Revised edition. Malayan Nature Society, Kuala Lumpur. 227 pp.

Robinson, H. C., 1927. The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. Vol. I: The Commoner Birds. H. F. & G. Witherby. London. 329 pp.

Robinson, H. C., 1928. The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. Vol. II: The Birds of the Hill Stations. H. F. & G. Witherby. London. 310 pp.

Wang, L. K., 2011. Kingfishers. Pp. 355. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors). Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore. 552 pp.

Wang, L. K. & C. J. Hails, 2007. An annotated checklist of the birds of Singapore. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 15: 1–179.

Woodall, P. F., 2001. Family Alcedinidae (Kingfishers). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 6: Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 130-249.

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