Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

A famously colourful bird of rivers and streams, the kingfisher can be spotted sitting quietly on low-hanging branches over the water, suddenly diving in to catch a small fish. The striking mix of its bright-blue back and metallic copper breast make the kingfisher unmistakable. Male kingfishers have an entirely black bill, females have an orangey-red patch at the base.


Kingfishers breed near lowland watercourses and lakes which have suitable banks for burrowing nests and shallow edges for feeding. They occasionally visit gardens.


  • Length: 15-17cm
  • Wingspan: 40cm
  • Weight: 25g
  • Average Lifespan: 2 years


Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.


Widespread, absent from northern Scotland.

When to see

January – December


  • There are about 90 species of kingfisher around the world, most of which have brightly coloured plumage. The Australian kingfisher – the familiar, ‘laughing’ kookaburra – is the heaviest of all the kingfisher species.
  • Kingfishers are known for their dramatic dives when feeding. The kingfisher will usually wait on a feeding perch near the water until it launches itself head-first into the water in pursuit of its prey. Kingfishers must eat the equivalent of their own body weight in fish every day.

Common name


Species name

Alcedo atthis

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Montrose Basin or Falls of Clyde.

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