Common Kingfisher- Alcedo atthis


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Coraciiformes
  • Family: Alcedinidae
  • Genre: Alcedo
  • Species Alcedo atthis

Identification characters

It is a small bird, very beautifully coloured, with a body length of 18 cm.
It weighs 34-46 grams. Large head, long beak, broad wings, short tail. Legs are short, bright red and grey in juveniles. Crests and wings are greenish-blue, backs and tails deep blue, with shades varying according to the direction in which light rays strike the plumage. The belly is reddish orange. The cheeks have a scarlet patch. The male’s bill is greyish black, while the female’s is red at the base of the mandible. It stands upright on its stand. In flight it emits a short, sharp whistle.


The Common Kingfisher nests in territories from the western Palearctic to Japan, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Sulawesi and the Solomon Islands. In Europe it is found south of latitude 60°N.
Key populations nest in Russia, the UK, Spain, Italy, Poland and Romania. The breeding population in Europe ranges from 97 500 to 167 000 pairs, representing 25% of the global population. A decline of 30-49% over 13 years is estimated over three generations.
In winter, the eastern European flocks migrate to southern and western Europe, with the largest populations in Ireland, the UK, France, Spain and Italy. In Romania it is a resident species, spread throughout the country. The breeding population in Romania is between 5,000 and 10,000 pairs.

Living environment and biology of the species

The species nests in the western Palearctic at both high and mid latitudes and is widespread in continental and oceanic climates, temperate, boreal and steppe regions.
It prefers habitats with clear unfrozen, still or slow-flowing water, small fish and roosting sites. During breeding season prefers fresh water to brackish or salt water. For nesting it chooses steep, sandy banks of streams, small rivers and canals.
Feeds on small freshwater and marine fish and aquatic insects. Sometimes it also eats crustaceans, molluscs, terrestrial insects or amphibians. Its daily food intake is equivalent to 60% of its weight. It lurks on branches above the water and dives head down to catch prey. Sometimes it flies briefly over the water and then attacks. It is very skilful at catching fish, which is why in the Danube Delta area it is also called Ivan the fisherman. Maximum longevity is 21 years.
It is a monogamous and territorial species. It is the male that initiates the mating ritual. He follows the female and offers her food. The nest is dug by both sexes in the banks in the form of a gallery about 1m long, with a wider, round chamber at the end, in which the female lays in April-May a clutch of 6-7 eggs, to be hatched in turn by both parents. The size of an egg is 22×19 mm. The incubation period is 19-21 days. Both sexes hatch during the day and only the female at night. The chicks remain in the nest for 24-27 days. As they grow, the chicks advance to the edge of the tunnel to be fed. Under favourable conditions the species can lay two or even three eggs a year.

Threats and conservation measures

Habitat loss and alteration through stream regulation, destruction of the natural banks where they prefer to nest, damming, anthropogenic disturbance, as well as pollution and poor water management are all factors that threaten blue gull populations.
Conservation requires restrictions in riparian and coastal areas, avoiding construction in the vicinity of wetlands, and not cutting down trees and reeds at the water’s edge. River regulation works should be under control and the exploitation and excavation of loess and sand from the water’s edge should be prohibited. Waste and sewage management in wetlands must be carried out, and a minimum 1.5 m uncultivated strip must be maintained between cultivated land and wetlands, where the use of chemicals is strictly prohibited. Along riversides, the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of forests and wetland vegetation is recommended, with particular attention to protected riparian areas. The use of agrochemicals should be monitored and the use of selective and low toxicity agrochemicals should be encouraged. In wetlands, drought and sudden artificial changes in water regime should be avoided. During the nesting period, sport fishing should be controlled to reduce disturbance.
It is useful and worthwhile to promote studies on various aspects of the biology of the species, to carry out an inventory of current and potential breeding areas, and to identify migration, feeding and aggregation areas.


  •  Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editori), 2022, Atlas al speciilor de păsări de interes comunitar din România, ediția a II-a – Iubește păsările, salvează natura!, Proiect finanțat din Fondul European de Dezvoltare Regională prin Programul Operațional Infrastructură Mare 2014-2020, Ministerul Mediului, Apelor și Pădurilor- Direcția Biodiversitate, coordonare științifică Societatea Ornitologică Română și Asociația pentru Protecția Păsărilor și a Naturii Grupul Milvus, produs de EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 326-327;
  • Svensson (text și hărți), 2017, Ghid pentru identificarea păsărilor. Europa și zona mediteraneană, traducerea și adaptarea în limba română: Societatea Ornitologică română, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p.238;
  • Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Mic atlas ornitologic – Păsările lumii, Editura Albatros, București, p. 171;
  • Ornitodata | Pescăraş albastru (
Follow Us