The Pied Kingfisher – Ceryle rudis, as it is called in Ornithology, is a Real King of all the Kingfishers. As the name suggests, Kingfishers are masters at hunting fish.
There are in all about 90 species of Kingfishers, out of which 12 are found in India and 8 are found in South India and in Karnataka; The Pied Kingfisher is the only Kingfisher with only black-white colours. Though both male and female look the same in colour and features, there is a distinct difference between the sexes — the male having a double breast-band of black colour, the female with one single black breast-band broken and open at the centre. The bird in the image is a male, his double black breast-band can be seen.
The Pied Kingfisher is the only member of the Kingfishers family of Alcedinidae, which has the ability for true hovering. Hovering, the ability of stationery flight, and also backward and downward manoeuvre. Though all Kingfishers can stay still in flight for a few seconds, they do not have the ability for sustained hovering with forward, backward, upward and downward manoeuvres. It is a sight to watch these Pied Kingfishers, hovering over lakes, and locking their target on the fish underwater and a splashing dive to get it. Their hovering is by far superior and no aircraft ever designed can even come close to it. Such is the ability of this Pied Kingfisher and aptly called ‘The King of Kingfishers.’
These birds are solitary in nature and form bonding pairs in the nesting season. Nests are in deep tunnels, in the mud banks of lakes and streams. Both parents dig the tunnel and share all the domestic and parental chores equally, until the offspring are fledged.
Though the species is not threatened with any immediate threats to their populations, the degradation of their nesting sites — mud banks on streams and canal sides, the removal of their perching low trees on canal banks, are the threats that are not too far away. May the King of Kingfishers live forever…
[Pic. by SOM photographer M.N. Lakshminarayana Yadav]