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  • Aditya Singh

The Remarkable Pied Kingfisher

Updated: May 17, 2023

The stage of this artist is mid-air and there, it can stay still in flight as if posing for the camera. The talent is remarkable.


As the name suggests, these birds are a part of Kingfisher family.

They are white below and variably black and white above giving them a spotted look with an all black pointed beak. The face has alternate black and white stripes. The tail is again variably black with a white edge. The lady (on the right in the picture below) wears a black open collar while her counterpart wears a double band, double necklace if you may. The band above is broader, being like a gorget. Two black stripes, one connects the eye stripe with the necklace at the shoulder and the other meets the back. They both have a spiky crest. The legs are black. A white patch on the wing is clearly visible in flight when viewed from above or even below.

A pair of Pied Kingfisher


In my country, this bird lives near lakes and ponds in the plains. They are uncommon and not present near every lake. This bird is a specialized fish-eater. I have never seen one catch insects or dragonflies and so one can say, the bird is highly dependent on water.

While resting, the bird wags its tail up and down. They nest in mud banks just like the White-throated Kingfisher.

Taking a between the fishing trips…

To catch fish, it flies around the lake for a while, searching for the right spot. Once that is done, encircles it and starts hovering above the water. At this point, the bird is perfectly still for a few seconds, like a frozen frame. Staying still in this position with only the wings flapping, the tail fans and the body goes up and down rhythmically just like a see-saw. (The head is held perfectly still and the beak points down.) Then, suddenly the bird dives down head first into the water. (At the entry point, the wings are tucked in to make the body streamlined.) In a jiffy, emerges from the water with its catch in its beak and is off to a safe perch.

Hovering – spotting the target…

Target identified, ready for the dive…

This is one of the few birds that can hover in still air and the only kingfisher to do so.


There is a lake near my home where I would often go. It provided a good habitat for this particular bird and many other birds, both migratory and residential. Most of my photos of this bird are from there. Then, it started to dry up because of human activities, for unknown reasons. The lake is now bone dry. A few days ago, the trees surrounding the lake were cut during wee hours of the morning.

In the words of Shakespeare, the lake is sans food, sans water, sans ecosystem, sans everything…sans bird.

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