Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails. There are 93 species worldwide and 18 species occur in the Philippines. Furthermore, seven species of kingfisher are endemic to some of its islands.
If you are planning on a birding trip to the Philippines, then the country’s seven endemic kingfishers is a must-see experience. We have Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher for the major islands, Indigo-banded Kingfisher and Spotted Wood Kingfisher in Luzon, while Mindanao and its satellite islands have Silvery Kingfisher, Rufous-lored Kingfisher, and the Blue-capped Wood Kingfisher.
1. Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher
The Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx melanurus) is a tiny, colorful, forest-dwelling kingfisher recognizable by its striking bright red bill and bright red legs. The species is found in the islands of Luzon, Polillo, Alabat, Catanduanes, Tablas, Samar, Leyte, Mindanao and Basilan. It prefers subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. The species is threatened by habitat loss.
This shy kingfisher measures 12 cm (4.72 in) and weighs 16·4 g (0.58 oz). Three subspecies are recognized, each of which differs in its range and appearance. (Ceyx melanurus melanurus) has reddish-brown plumage with washed lilac breast, rump, on the crown, and ear-coverts. A blue and white neck blaze, the throat and belly are white. The wings are glossy bluish-black, and black “V” mark on back.
(Ceyx melanurus samarensis) differs from Ceyx melanurus melanurus by having a darker back, a more lilac-washed head, and a slightly larger bill and wings. (Ceyx melanurus platenae) is larger, lacks any blue on the neck, more lilac, and less black in the wings.
2. Indigo-banded Kingfisher
The Indigo-banded Kingfisher (Alcedo cyanopectus) is one of the most-striking kingfisher endemic to the Philippines. It is found in the islands of Luzon, Cebu, Mindoro, Negros and Panay. Its natural habitats include tropical or subtropical dry forests and tropical or subtropical mangrove forests. The species prefers clean freshwater rivers and streams where it hunts small fish, crabs and aquatic insects.
This colorful and also among the smallest kingfisher endemic to the Philippines measures 13.97 cm (5.5 in) in length. The Indigo-banded Kingfisher is classified as Least Concern.
3. Spotted Wood Kingfisher
The Spotted-wood Kingfisher (Actenoides lindsayi) is endemic to Luzon and Negros and Panay. It is strictly a forest kingfisher found in subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and usually seen near bodies of water. It feeds on insects, other invertebrates as well as small vertebrates.
One of the most colorful endemic kingfishers in the Philippines, the species is sexually dimorphic (the male looks different from the female).
4. Silvery Kingfisher
The Silvery Kingfisher (Alcedo argentata) locally called kasay-kasay is found in Samar, Leyte and Bohol. A shy and inconspicuous kingfisher, it prefers subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and rivers. The species is threatened by habitat loss due to extensive lowland deforestation throughout its range.
This small yet distinctive kingfisher has mainly black and white plumage with silvery-white rump and blaze on back. There are two subspecies of the silvery kingfisher; (Alcedo argentata argentata) easily recognized by its black head with silvery white spots, black wings and a silvery white back; and the smaller (Alcedo argentata flumenicola) with purple-washed underparts, and a creamy-colored throat. Silvery Kingfisher measures 14 cm (5.5 in) in length.
5. Brown-breasted Kingfisher
The Brown-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon gularis) is a large kingfisher found in the islands of Luzon, Mindoro, Negros, Panay and Samar. The species is found near coastal waters, estuaries, lagoons, and lakes. Adults measure 28 cm (11.02 in) long and sports bright blue back, wings and tail. Its has white neck and throat.
6. Rufous-lored kingfisher
The Winchell”s Kingfisher or the Rufous-lored Kingfisher (Todiramphus winchelli) is endemic to the Philippines widely distributed throughout the Visayas, and Mindanao. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. The species is listed as Vulnerable due to habitat loss.
A medium-sized kingfisher, males measure 25 cm (9.8 in) long and weigh 60–64 g (2.11-2.25 oz). The male has white underparts and dark blue upperparts. A rusty-orange “collar on the neck and shining blue on crown and rump.
7. Blue-capped Kingfisher
The Blue-capped Kingfisher (Actenoides hombroni) is endemic to the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Its habitat includes undisturbed rainforest, montane and mossy forest. This species qualifies as Vulnerable because it has a small, fragmented population, which is undergoing a rapid decline due to deforestation.
The blue-capped kingfisher is a stunning bird, known for its dark purple-blue crown and ‘moustache’. Blue-green upperparts and rufous-orange cheeks and underparts. Off-white throat, rest of underparts rufous-orange. It has a distinctive dagger-shaped, red bill. Blue-green upperparts of the same colour, and a prominent, dagger-shaped, red bill. The male measures 27 cm (10.62 in) long and weighs around 108–124 g (3.80-4.27 oz).