1st November 2023

Bird of the month – Kotare – Sacred Kingfisher

Photo – Craig McKenzie (published by Forest and Bird)

The kingfisher is a distinctive bird with a green-blue back, buff to yellow undersides and a large black bill. It has a broad black eye-stripe, and a white collar in adults. The females are slightly greener and duller. 

Not a lot of sightings around the Whakatipu have been recorded in ebird.  If you see them, please let us know or even better – record them into ebird.

New Zealand status: Native
Conservation status: Not Threatened
Found in: Coastal and freshwater habitats throughout New Zealand

Species information: Kingfisher on NZ Birds Online

Kingfishers have a wide range of unmusical calls, the most distinctive of which is the staccato ‘kek-kek-kek’ territorial call. Their status is ‘Native, Not Threatened’.


Kingfishers are found throughout the country in both coastal and inland freshwater habitats. They live in a wide range of habitats, including forest, river margins, farmland, lakes, estuaries and rocky coastlines.


Their diet in estuarine mudflats is mainly small crabs, with a range of tadpoles, freshwater crayfish and small fish in freshwater habitats. In open country they eat insects, spiders, lizards, mice and small birds.

Nesting and breeding

Nest sites are in cavities in trees, cliffs and banks with breeding from September to February. After leaving the nest chicks are fed by both parents for 7–10 days before they start to catch food for themselves.

Kingfishers appear to have high fidelity to breeding sites. The same burrow has been reported in use for 20 consecutive years, but it is not known how many birds were involved.

Nests are vulnerable to predation by stoats and rats – if we know where the nests are we can increase trapping to improve their chances of survival!

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