Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus)


French: Martin-chasseur sacré German: Götzenliest Spanish: Alción sagrado

Halcyon sanctus

Vigors and Horsfield

, 1827,

New South Wales, Australia


Traditionally thought to form a species-group with T. australasia, T. tutus, T. veneratus, T. gambieri and T. godeffroyi (and with forms previously included within those species); has been considered conspecific with T. australasia. Usually regarded as conspecific with T. recurvirostris (which see). Races regina, vitiensis and eximius of T. chloris sometimes considered to belong in present species. T. ruficollaris, previously treated as race of T. tutus, was once thought possibly better included within T. sanctus. In the past, race ruficollaris of Ceyx azureus inexplicably and erroneously listed under present species. Populations of Lord Howe I and Norfolk I sometimes separated as respective races adamsi and norfolkiensis, but they differ little from New Zealand vagans. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. s. sanctus (Vigors & Horsfield, 1827) – Australia, and possibly also E Solomons (breeding reported in Kolombangara, Guadalcanal and Three Sisters); migrates to Indonesia (W to Sumatra) and Melanesia.
  • T. s. vagans (Lesson, 1828) – Norfolk I, Lord Howe I, Kermadec Is and New Zealand.
  • T. s. canacorum (Brasil, 1916) – New Caledonia and I of Pines.
  • T. s. macmillani (Mayr, 1940) – Loyalty Is.
  • Descriptive notes

    22 cm; male 28–61 g, female 28–56 g. Male nominate race has buff loral spot, dark green forehead and crown, black mask extending narrowly across nape at rear;... read more


    “Staccato Call” a series of 4–5 (occasionally up to 12) repeated notes, “... read more


    Typically, in Australia, breeds in eucalypt (Eucalyptus) woodland and open forest with... read more

    Food and feeding

    Wide variety of invertebrates, particularly insects, including locusts and grasshoppers (Acrididae, Gryllidae, Gryllotalpidae,... read more


    Lays in Sept–Mar in Australia, but mainly Oct–Jan in S and similar in N; in Oct–Jan but mainly Nov–Dec in New... read more


    Nominate sanctus in S Australia mostly migrates N after breeding, although a few remain... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and common in many areas. Densities from various localities in Australia and New Zealand vary, 5–80 birds/km², with an average... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 November 2019).