Little Kingfisher (Alcedo pusilla)
The Little Kingfisher belongs to the 'Alcedinidae' Family commonly known as the ‘River Kingfishers’. In Australia we have only 2 members of this family - Alcedo pusilla (Little Kingfisher) and the Alecdo azurea (Azure Kingfisher) and they are specialists at deep diving into water for their prey.
Little Kingfishers are found in the coastal areas of the Top End of Australia, including rainforest pools and billabongs. They are a dark brown-eyed bird with a long black bill, a white spot before the eyes, white plume on the sides of the neck with upperparts a violet-blue and under parts white. Their call is a thin, shrill whistle, which can be almost inaudible to humans.
When spotting these birds you will often hear them before seeing them. I listen and then move closer as I narrow down their position. They will generally be situated close to the water line or within a couple of meters of the water. Watch for the smallest amount of movement, a small head bob, and the shrill whistle. Finding these beautifully coloured birds takes practice, but by using both your eyes and ears they can be found.
Little Kingfishers mate October to March in Australia laying 5-7 glossy white eggs in a 15cm burrow made in the bank of a river or rotten log. They can also be found nesting in the mangrove roots. Both male and female build the nest by flying directly at the bank and chipping away at mud until they have a burrow. They both feed their young, but little is known about the incubation period.
One of my favourite places to observe these birds is on Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu National Park. This is a great location but you will need a boat or to join Gagudju Cruises to access the best areas, which gives you time to observe and enjoy these little guys.