Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis)


French: Martin-chasseur gurial German: Storchschnabelliest Spanish: Alción picocigüeña

Alcedo capensis


, 1766,

Cape of Good Hope; error = Chandernagor, West Bengal, India


Closely related to P. melanorhyncha. Somewhat confused nomenclature: nominate race previously believed to refer to populations of Java, and under that arrangement Indian mainland birds were placed in race gurial, later synonymized with capensis; Borneo population formerly separated by some authors as race javana, with latter name at one stage erroneously thought to refer not to Javan birds but to those of Borneo. Mainland races intergrade to some extent. On other hand, possibility that intermedia and some other distinctive E forms may not be conspecific with W races merits investigation. Also, island forms nesoeca and isoptera of doubtful validity, and both are often subsumed within sodalis; S Andamans form shekarii included in osmastoni; and smithi (C & S Philippines) synonymized with gigantea. Fifteen subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. c. capensis (Linnaeus, 1766) – Indian Subcontinent along base of Himalayas and Gangetic Plain, from W Uttarakhand and S Nepal to Assam and Bangladesh, and from SE Gujarat and S West Bengal S to Sri Lanka.
  • P. c. osmastoni (E. C. S. Baker, 1934) – Andaman Is.
  • P. c. intermedia A. O. Hume, 1874 – Nicobar Is.
  • P. c. burmanica Sharpe, 1870 – Myanmar, Thailand and Indochina S to about Isthmus of Kra (in Malay Peninsula).
  • P. c. malaccensis Sharpe, 1870 – from Isthmus of Kra S to Riau and Lingga Archipelagos.
  • P. c. cyanopteryx (Oberholser, 1909) – Sumatra, Bangka and Belitung.
  • P. c. simalurensis Richmond, 1903 – Simeulue I, off NW Sumatra.
  • P. c. sodalis Richmond, 1903 – Banyak Is, off NW Sumatra.
  • P. c. nesoeca (Oberholser, 1909) – Nias I and Batu Is, off W Sumatra.
  • P. c. isoptera (Oberholser, 1909) – Mentawai Is, off W Sumatra.
  • P. c. innominata (van Oort, 1910) – Borneo.
  • P. c. javana (Boddaert, 1783) – Java.
  • P. c. floresiana Sharpe, 1870 – Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores, occasionally E to Pantar#R.
  • P. c. gouldi Sharpe, 1870 – Lubang, Mindoro, Calauit, Culion, Palawan and Balabac, in W Philippines.
  • P. c. gigantea Walden, 1874 – C & S Philippines S from Polillo, including Sulu Archipelago.
  • Descriptive notes

    35–41 cm; male 143–180 g, female 182–225 g. Large kingfisher with huge bill. Both sexes of nominate race have olive-brown head, whitish chin, buff neck and... read more


    A loud harsh “kak kak kak kak...”, becoming softer; shrill descending whistle, “... read more


    Generally found in lowland waterside habitats such as the forested edges of streams, canals, large... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds mainly on marine and freshwater fish, crabs and other crustaceans, but also takes frogs, lizards, rodents, young birds, also insects... read more


    Lays in Jan–Sept in India, in Jan–May and Aug–Sept in Sri Lanka, in Apr in Nicobar Is and Philippines, in Feb–Apr... read more


    Sedentary, with some local movements; five birds ringed in S Thailand were recaptured at same place... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread and found in a variety of habitats. Locally common in some areas, but generally sparsely distributed; common in dry... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis). 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 26 February 2020).