Red-backed kingfisher

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Red-backed kingfisher
Todiramphus pyrrhopygia (female).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Alcedinidae
Subfamily: Halcyoninae
Genus: Todiramphus
T. pyrrhopygius
Binomial name
Todiramphus pyrrhopygius
(Gould, 1841)

Halcyon pyrrhopygia

The red-backed kingfisher (Todiramphus pyrrhopygius) is a species of kingfisher in the subfamily Halcyoninae, also known as tree kingfishers. It is a predominantly blue-green and white bird with a chestnut rump. It is found across the continent of Australia, mainly inhabiting the drier regions.


The red-backed kingfisher was first described by the English ornithologist and bird artist John Gould in 1841. He coined the binomial name Halcyon pyrrhopygia.[2][3] It was known for many years by this scientific name before being transferred to the genus Todiramphus. Its specific epithet is derived from the Ancient Greek words pyrrho-/πυρρο- "flame-coloured" or "red" and pyge/πυγή "rump".[4] The species is monotypic.[5]


Measuring 20–22.5 cm (9 in), the red-backed kingfisher has a streaked green and white crown, bluish-green wings and tail, and lower back, rump and upper tail coverts chestnut with white breast, abdomen and nape. It has a black band stretching from the bill, through the eyes and to the ear coverts. The female is duller overall in coloration. The iris is dark brown and the legs and feet dark grey. Immature birds have speckling on their breasts. The call is a descending whistle, with a harsh alarm call given by birds near the nest.[6][7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The red-backed kingfisher is native to most of Australia. It is a summer visitor to the southeast of the country; elsewhere it is resident all year round.[6] It inhabits dry forests, mulga and mallee country, to savannah. It avoids denser forests. During breeding season, birds will move to river courses to make use of the earthy banks to dig nesting burrows.[6]


Breeding season is October to December in Australia with one brood raised, although birds may not breed in times of drought. The nest is a burrow 0.5–1.25 m (18–50 in) into the top third section of a steep sloping or vertical bank overlooking a dry riverbed or one not overlooking water. They may vacate the site if the riverbed becomes inundated.[8] Occasionally nests may be situated in termite mounds in the north of the country. Three to six white shiny eggs are laid, measuring 25 mm x 22 mm.[8]

Dayboro, SE Qld, Australia, April 2008


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Todiramphus pyrrhopygius". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Gould, John (1841). "A new Halcyon". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. Part 8: 113. The volume is dated 1840 on the cover.
  3. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1945). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 5. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 203.
  4. ^ Liddell, Henry George & Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910207-4.
  5. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Rollers, ground rollers & kingfishers". World Bird List Version 7.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Slater, Peter (1970). A Field Guide to Australian Birds: Vol.1. Non-passerines. Adelaide: Rigby. p. 406. ISBN 0-85179-102-6.
  7. ^ Simpson K, Day N, Trusler P (1993). Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Ringwood, Victoria: Viking O'Neil. p. 160. ISBN 0-670-90478-3.
  8. ^ a b Beruldsen, G (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. p. 269. ISBN 0-646-42798-9.

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