Sub-adult Blue-eared Kingfisher

on 9th February 2012

“The Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve has many fast streams that are occupied by both the Chestnut-naped Forktail (Enicurus ruficapillus) and White-crowned Forktail (E. leschenaultia). There are some slower side streams where the Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting) live.

“The problem is, at times, to differentiate them from the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), especially when the plumage is just not right. I have seen classical birds of both species but it can be difficulty at times.

“The Common Kingfisher is primarily migratory but has a small resident presence, while the Blue-eared Kingfisher is resident.

“Saw two Blue-eared Kingfishers and one was very patient with me and allowed close observation, even of feeding, for 20 minutes (usually very shy). Much was in dense shade but managed some pictures as got quite close to the bird. No flash used.

“The reasons I think this is a Blue-eared Kingfisher are:
1. Rich blue rather than greenish tone of plumage
2. The location – it is generally found in forest streams (as opposed to Common Kingfisher which prefers the coast, ponds and mouths of rivers).
3. The call – heard a few calls from this bird, on the preach and in flight, all of which were a single, high pitched squeak (as opposed to Common Kingfisher which makes 2-3 squeak and usually in flight).

“The reasons against Blue-eared Kingfisher are:
1. The rufous ear coverts
2. The reddish colour at the base of bill

“Some field guides state that Common Kingfishers ‘never’ inhabit the forest streams. But Lekagul & Round (Birds of Thailand) say “beware of confusion with bright-plumage Common Kingfishers on forest streams”

“Also considered the female Blue-banded Kingfisher (A. euryzonia) but it is much larger.

“Wells (1999) states that “… some Blue-eared Kingfisher have cheeks rufous…”

“In summary I think this is sub-adult/juvenile Blue-eared Kingfisher. Hence the plumage and bill colour, and lack of fear for humans.

“Also of surprise note was a Stork-billed Kingfisher (Halcyon capensis) that occupied the same location as this Blue-eared Kingfisher! Not seen it so far in a jungle stream (pictures were poor).

“Happy for any comments and opinions.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
30th June 2010

Slim Sreedharan sent in this piece:

“Ref. your Blue-eared Kingfisher, perhaps the following extract from Robinson (1927) and Robinson (1928) might help.

A. m. meninting: Differs from bengalensis in its very deep ultramarine blue above and the dark rufous orange of the lowerparts. Adult male: head and nape barred transverely deep azure and black. Back shining cobalt-blue, darker on the rump and uppertail coverts. Scapulars dark ultramarine blue. Wc black, with shining ultramaribe blue tips. Flight feathers, externally black, with the innermost edged with blue on the outer webs; internally brownish black, edged with fawn on the inner webs. Angle of wing, inner coverts and axillaries, rich rufous chestnut; feathers immediately behind the nostril, black, remaining space between them and the eye pale rufous, bordered below by a narrow bluish black stripe. Cheeks, stripe from the angle of the jaw, region behind the eye and ear coverts deep blue, with a large buffy white spot behind the ear coverts. Throat whitish buff, a small blue patch on each side of the breast. Remaining underparts, including undertail coverts, deep rufous orange, darker than the under wc. Tail feathers above black, with a faint blue wash, beneath black. Adult females: most females have a good deal of rufous orange on the sides of the head and jaw, but very old birds tend to assimilate to the plumage of the male. Imm.: duller, the blues less intense and the underparts paler, and with a variable amount of rufous on the sides of the head.

“Male: iris dark. Bill blackish brown, with the extreme base of both mandible red. Feet blood red. The female has almost the whole of the lower mandible reddish. Younger birds often have the extreme tips of both mandibles whitish.

“Throughout Malaya., from isthmus of Kra southwards, in Penang and Singapore, Junk Zeylon and Terutau. The Bornean form is probably identical with the Pen., but other local races from India, Siam, Assam, Andamans and Nias distinguishable (Baker). The changes of plumage not well understood. Possible that the number of local races will eventually be reduced. Nesting habits and eggs much as in A. atthis. 4 eggs obtained, Labuan (Low), ave 0.76” x 0.65”. In Malaya., nesting season is about June. Habits similar to A. atthis but more a forest frequenter and less seen in the open and seashore. Penetrates farther up the rivers and does not seem quite so strictly tied to water. Strictly sedentary and does no migrations.

“I suspect it is Blue-eared Kingfisher – too blue to be A. atthis.”

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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