Aust birds    Bird names   News   1-26    Habitats    Key plants    Glossary    Plumage    Nests    Tips    Thumbnails    Gen. info    Sponsors    Photos for sale   
NON-PASSERINES     1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10     11     12     13     14 15     16     17     18     19     20     21     22     23     24     25     26     PASSERINES
Common names sorted alphabetically: A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   W   Y  
Have birds left a mess around your place? We recommend to try a professional cleaning service.

14

Sacred Kingfisher

(Todiramphus sanctus)
Alternate name(s): "Wood Kingfisher", "Tree Kingfisher", "Green Kingfisher"; misnomer: "Forest Kingfisher*"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "sanctus": "koonyenok", "djok" (WA); "rool" (Bird of Death)

Size: 20-23 cm
Weight: 45 g (average)

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Sacred Kingfisher at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "sanctus"

ADULT

MALE

Lateral view of a male Sacred Kingfisher, with the characteristic bluish appearance
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2007]

Near-dorsal view of a (probably male) Sacred Kingfisher that looks almost like a Forest Kingfisher; only the buff-coloured collar and eye patches give away its true ID
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2013]

In this dorsal view of a (probably male) Sacred Kingfisher the similarity with a Forest Kingfisher is even more pronounced
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2013]

FEMALE

Near-dorsal view of a female Sacred Kingfisher; note the typical turquoise-greenish colour (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Close-up lateral view of a female Sacred Kingfisher (photo courtesy of C. Kellenberg)
[Lord Howe Island, July 2010]

Near-dorsal view of a female Sacred Kingfisher
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Dorsal view of a Sacred Kingfisher
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Pair of Sacred Kingfishers; most likely the male is at the right, the female on the left
[Near Narrabri, NSW, October 2014]

In these light conditions this Sacred Kingfisher looks almost like a Forest Kingfisher
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2010]

Slightly blurred lateral view of a Sacred Kingfisher in flight (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Female Sacred Kingfisher diving to catch its prey and subsequently returning to its perch
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-frontal view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2017]

Near-frontal view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher, now looking sideways
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2017]

Near-lateral view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Lateral view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2012]

Lateral view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2016]

Near-dorsal view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2012]

Near-dorsal view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher
[Inverell, NSW, January 2017]

Dorsal view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher; note the white spot above the black crescent (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2012]

Dorsal view of an immature Sacred Kingfisher and a Willie Wagtail (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2012]

Frontal view of a stunned immature (probably female) Sacred Kingfisher after a run-in with a window pane (photo courtesy of G. Mathewson)
[Banyo, QLD, March 2016]

Lateral view of a stunned immature (probably female) Sacred Kingfisher after a run-in with a window pane (photo courtesy of G. Mathewson)
[Banyo, QLD, March 2016]

This contributed photo shows in detail a wing of a Sacred Kingfisher (a cat got the rest of the bird...)

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Jan Eggs: 3 - 6 Incubation period: 17 - 18 days Fledging age: 26 - 28 days

Pair of Sacred Kingfishers working on the next generation (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, October 2013]

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Tree hollow or tunnel, with basket Material: ? Height above ground: 0 - 25 m

Sometimes Sacred Kingfishers can be seen using arboreal termite mounds.

Sacred Kingfisher leaving its nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree
[Cape Conran Nature Reserve, VIC, November 2016]

Opening of a Sacred Kingfisher nest tunnel in a steep creek bank (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Baradine area, NSW, February 1988]

Amazingly, although still totally naked and blind, these Sacred Kingfisher hatchlings are not in the nest chamber, but right at the tunnel entrance begging for food (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Baradine area, NSW, February 1988]

Pair of Sacred Kingfishers, female on the left, male on the right, just outside their nesting hollow
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2005]

Here one of the Sacred Kingfishers entering the nesting hollow
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2005]

Entrance to the nesting hollow of a pair of Sacred Kingfishers
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2005]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 25 x 22 mm Colour: White Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Migratory Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

Together with other birds marking the boundaries of their territory by calling from vantage points, we noticed that the local pair of Sacred Kingfishers was quiet for two days during a late cold snap in late October 2008.

Some bird species, including Sacred Kingfishers, are quite adaptable in choosing where they hunt. The photo below is of a juvenile bird that was seen around our place in March 2009. There were no parents around to teach the bird its tactics and it was clearly too young to have made earlier experiences in previous seasons. It hunted from a gate, just outside the reach of a sprinkler, in an area where insects disturbed by the water were crawling into drier areas.

Sacred Kingfisher using the disturbance created by a lawn sprinkler to pick off insects crawling away; the bird sat about 50 cm outside the range of the sprinkler
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2009]

Sacred Kingfishers take prey with undigestible parts, such as e.g. fur; here one regurgitating a pellet, left, and spitting it out, right (photos courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW]

Food, Diet

Like other kingfishers, Sacred Kingfishers prey on small fish and yabbies, which they catch diving into water. However, they are known to hunt primarily on land for small reptiles, large insects (e.g. bush cockroaches) and spiders. We have seen an immature Sacred Kingfisher take a female Silken Orb Weaver spider.

This Sacred Kingfisher has caught a big, fat, juicy spider
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2013]

Gulp...!
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2013]

Immature Sacred Kingfisher with its prey, probably a small lizard (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2013]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

sacking_20141016_3.mp3 sanctus
(NW NSW)
Contact calls (slow) © MD
sacking_20141026.mp3 sanctus
(NW NSW)
Contact calls (quick) © MD
sacking_20150123.mp3 sanctus
(NW NSW)
Contact calls (immature) © MD
sacking_20141220.mp3 sanctus
(NW NSW)
Q&A © MD
sacking_20150226.mp3 sanctus
(NW NSW)
Juvenile begging © MD
sacking_20141016_2.mp3 sanctus
(NW NSW)
? © MD
sacking_20141019.mp3 sanctus
(NW NSW)
? © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.