Woodland kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis, photographed by Chris and Megan Perkins.

Belongs within: Alcedines.
Contains: Alcedininae, Todiramphus.

The Alcedinidae are the kingfishers, a family of long-billed carnivorous birds found worldwide. Despite their common name, many members of the Daceloninae, the wood kingfishers, are not primarily fish-eaters, instead feeding on insects, worms or small terrestrial vertebrates. One of the largest kingfishers, the laughing kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae of eastern Australia, is well-known as a predator of reptiles. The more dedicated piscivores are found among the other two subfamilies, particularly the water kingfishers of the Cerylinae. These are narrow-billed, often large kingfishers found in Eurasia, Africa and the Americas.

Characters (from Austin 1961): Thick-set; head large; bill long, strong, usually pointed; neck and tail short; legs short; feet small, weak; front toes joined for more than one-third of length.

    |  i. s.: Caridonax fulgidus JT12
    |         Streptoceryle S18
    |           |--S. alcyon S18
    |           `--S. torquata S18
    |--Alcedininae JT12
    `--+--+--Megaceryle JT12
       |  |    |  i. s.: M. lugubris JT12
       |  |    |--M. maxima JT12
       |  |    `--+--M. alcyon JT12
       |  |       `--M. torquata JT12
       |  `--+--Ceryle Boie 1828 JT12, B94 [Cerylinae]
       |     |    |--C. alcyon ZJM03
       |     |    |--C. amazonia SS66
       |     |    |--C. americana SS66
       |     |    |--C. lugubris VP89
       |     |    |--C. rudis VP89
       |     |    `--C. torquata SS66
       |     `--Chloroceryle JT12
       |          |--C. amazona JT12
       |          `--+--C. aenea JT12
       |             `--+--C. americana JT12
       |                |    |--C. a. americana FS55
       |                |    |--C. a. isthmica S18
       |                |    `--C. a. septentrionalis FS55
       |                `--C. inda JT12
       `--+--Lacedo pulchella JT12
          `--Daceloninae [Alcyoninae, Halcyonidae, Halcyoninae] HWT01
               |--+--Pelargopsis Gloger 1841 JT12, B94 [incl. Ramphalcyon Reichenbach 1851 B94; Ramphalcyoninae]
               |  |    |--P. amauroptera JT12
               |  |    |--P. capensis JT12
               |  |    `--P. melanorhyncha JT12
               |  `--Halcyon Swainson 1821 JT12, B94 [incl. Alcyon Rafinesque 1815 B94]
               |       |  i. s.: H. albiventris JT12
               |       |         H. capensis (Linné 1766) [=Alcedo capensis] W66
               |       |         H. chelicuti (Stanley 1814) [incl. Dacelo pygmaeus Cretzschmar 1829] S05
               |       |         H. cinnamomina I92
               |       |         H. cyanoventris JT12
               |       |         H. dryas D66
               |       |         H. gularis S66
               |       |         H. gurial Pearson 1841 W66
               |       |         H. juliae S13
               |       |         H. miyakoensis Kuroda 1919 I92
               |       |         H. pileata VP89
               |       |         H. pyrrhopygia Gould 1840 [incl. H. pyrrhopygius obscurus Mathews 1912] WS48
               |       |         H. senegaloides JT12
               |       |         H. smyrnensis (Linn. 1766) [=Alcedo smyrnensis] W66
               |       |         H. tannensis S13
               |       |         H. tristrami S13
               |       |--H. leucocephala JT12 [=Alcedo leucocephalus W66]
               |       `--+--H. badia JT12
               |          `--+--H. malimbica JT12
               |             `--H. senegalensis JT12
               `--+--+--+--Todiramphus JT12
                  |  |  `--Syma JT12
                  |  |       |--S. megarhyncha JT12
                  |  |       `--S. torotoro M03
                  |  `--Actenoides JT12
                  |       |--A. bougainvillei JT12
                  |       |--A. hombroni JT12
                  |       |--A. lindsayi JT12
                  |       |--A. monachus JT12
                  |       `--A. princeps JT12
                  `--+--+--Cittura cyanotis JT12
                     |  |    |--C. c. cyanotis R02
                     |  |    `--C. c. sanghirensis R02
                     |  `--Tanysiptera Vigors 1825 JT12, B94 [Tanysipterinae]
                     |       |--T. carolinae JT12
                     |       |--T. danae JT12
                     |       |--T. ellioti JT12
                     |       |--T. galatea M03
                     |       |--T. hydrocharis P98
                     |       |--T. nympha JT12
                     |       `--T. sylvia M03
                     `--+--‘Halcyon’ coromanda JT12
                        `--+--Melidora macrorhina JT12
                           `--+--Clytoceyx rex JT12
                              `--Dacelo Leach 1815 JT12, B94
                                   |  i. s.: D. gigas SJ85
                                   |         D. madagascariensis [=Ispidina madagascariensis] S66
                                   |         D. tyro JT12
                                   |--D. gaudichaud JT12
                                   `--+--D. leachii Vigors & Horsfield 1827 JT12, WS48 (see below for synonymy)
                                      `--D. novaeguineae (Hermann 1783) JT12, R85
                                           |--D. n. novaeguineae M03
                                           `--D. n. minor M03

Dacelo leachii Vigors & Horsfield 1827 JT12, WS48 [incl. D. leachii cervina M03, D. leachid cliftoni Mathews 1912 WS48, D. leachii kempi M03, D. leachii mungi Mathews 1912 WS48, D. occidentalis Gould 1869 WS48, D. leachii occidentalis M03]

*Type species of generic name indicated


Austin, O. L., Jr. 1961. Birds of the World: A survey of the twenty-seven orders and one hundred and fifty-five families. Paul Hamlyn: London.

[B94] Bock, W. J. 1994. History and nomenclature of avian family-group names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 222: 1-281.

[D66] Dohrn, H. 1866. Synopsis of the birds of Ilha do Principe, with some remarks on their habits and descriptions of new species. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 324-332.

[FS55] Felten, H., & J. Steinbacher. 1955. Zur Vogelfauna von El Salvador. Senckenbergiana Biologica 36 (1-2): 9-19.

[HWT01] Holdaway, R. N., T. H. Worthy & A. J. D. Tennyson. 2001. A working list of breeding bird species of the New Zealand region at first human contact. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 28: 119-187.

[I92] Iwahashi, J. (ed.) 1992. Reddo Deeta Animaruzu: a pictorial of Japanese fauna facing extinction. JICC: Tokyo.

[JT12] Jetz, W., G. H. Thomas, J. B. Joy, K. Hartmann & A. Ø. Mooers. 2012. The global diversity of birds in space and time. Nature 491: 444-448.

[M03] Morcombe, M. 2003. Field Guide to Australian Birds, 2nd ed. Steve Parish Publishing.

[P98] Prothero, D. R. 1998. Bringing Fossils to Life: An introduction to paleobiology. WCB McGraw-Hill: Boston.

[R02] Riley, J. 2002. Population sizes and the status of endemic and restricted-range bird species on Sangihe Island, Indonesia. Bird Conservation International 12: 53-78.

[R85] Robertson, C. J. R. (ed.) 1985. Reader’s Digest Complete Book of New Zealand Birds. Reader’s Digest: Sydney.

[S13] Sarasin, F. 1913. Die Vögel Neu-Caledoniens und der Loyalty-Inseln. In Nova Caledonia: Forschungen in Neu-Caledonian und auf den Loyalty-Inseln. A. Zoologie vol. 1, Heft I (F. Sarasin & J. Roux, eds) pp. 1-78, pl. 1-3. C. W. Kreidels Verlag: Wiesbaden.

[S66] Schlegel, H. 1866. Communication from, on mammals and birds collected in Madagascar. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 419-426.

[SS66] Sclater, P. L., & O. Salvin. 1866. Catalogue of birds collected by Mr. E. Bartlett on the River Uyacali, Eastern Peru, with notes and descriptions of new species. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 175-201.

[S05] Steinheimer, F. D. 2005. Eduard Rüppel’s avian types at the Natural History Museum, Tring (Aves). Senckenbergiana Biologica 85 (2): 233-264.

[S18] Stone, W. 1918. Birds of the Panama Canal Zone, with special reference to a collection made by Mr. Lindsey L. Jewel. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 70: 239-280.

[SJ85] Storr, G. M., & R. E. Johnstone. 1985. Field Guide to the Birds of Western Australia 2nd ed. Western Australian Museum: Perth (Australia).

[VP89] Viney, C., & K. Phillipps. 1989. Birds of Hong Kong 5th ed. Government Printer: Hong Kong.

[W66] Walden, A. 1866. Notes on birds collected in Tennasserim and in the Andaman Islands. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 537-556.

[WS48] Whittell, H. M. & D. L. Serventy. 1948. A systematic list of the birds of Western Australia. Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Special Publication 1: 1-126.

[ZJM03] Zeffer, A., L. C. Johansson & Å. Marmebro. 2003. Functional correlation between habitat use and leg morphology in birds (Aves). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 79: 461-484.

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