Coraciiformes – Kingfishers & allies

Coraciiformes means ‘raven-like’ in Latin, strange when you think of the colorful birds belonging to this order

This group includes the skillful kingfishers, the intriguing motmots, diminutive todies, acrobatic rollers, and the vibrant bee-eaters. These birds are not only a visual treat with their often brilliant plumage but also a testament to the diverse evolutionary adaptations of birds.

These birds possess stout bodies, necks ranging from short to medium in length, sizeable heads, and somewhat elongated beaks. Their feet are diminutive, while their wings are broad. Tail lengths differ across species, extending from brief to exceptionally lengthy, and may end in a forked, square, or layered fashion; in certain species, the extremities of the outer or middle tail feathers are tapered or broaden into a paddle shape.

Their arboreal lifestyle is a common thread among these species, with many spending much of their lives in trees. This is facilitated by their zygodactylous feet — a toe arrangement with two toes facing forward and two backward. However, this order is often modified with three forward-pointing toes partially fused at the base. This adaptation aids in perching and grasping branches and maneuvering along trunks and foliage.

Kingfishers, possibly the most widely recognized of the order, exhibit a variety of hunting techniques and diets. While the iconic image of a kingfisher is plunging beak-first into the water to emerge with a fish, not all are piscivorous; some species hunt insects, worms, and small reptiles away from the water.

These birds also exhibit a wide range of breeding behaviors, from solitary nesting to colonial, with nests ranging from burrows in riverbanks to cavities in trees and even termite mounds. Their mating rituals can be complex and often involve elaborate calls and visual displays, using their bright plumage and flight skills to attract mates.

The conservation of these species is critical. Many face threats from habitat destruction, particularly those that rely on specific environments like forested waterways or undisturbed grasslands.