Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)


French: Martin-chasseur de Smyrne German: Braunliest Spanish: Alción de Esmirna
Other common names: White-throated Kingfisher (when lumped with H. gularis)

Alcedo smyrnensis


, 1758,

Izmir, west Turkey


Closely related to H. cyanoventris, and sometimes considered conspecific, but recently found to overlap in range in W Java without interbreeding. Until recently, treated as conspecific with H. gularis. Races perpulchra and fokiensis very similar to and often synonymized with fusca, but perhaps worthy of recognition; further study desirable. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. s. smyrnensis (Linnaeus, 1758) – W & S Turkey S to NE Egypt, and from C Iraq E to Pakistan, extreme NE Afghanistan and NW India.
  • H. s. fusca (Boddaert, 1783) – India from Uttarakhand to West Bengal and S through W part of peninsula to Sri Lanka.
  • H. s. perpulchra Madarász, 1904 – E India to Bangladesh, Myanmar and Indochina, S to Sumatra and W Java.
  • H. s. saturatior A. O. Hume, 1874 – Andaman Is.
  • H. s. fokiensis Laubmann & Gotz, 1926 – S & E China and islands of Matsu and Kinmen (off Fujian).
  • Descriptive notes

    26·5–29·5 cm; male 85–88 g (smyrnensis), 76–87 g (fusca), female 110 g (smyrnensis), both sexes 66·5–... read more


    Song a loud trill or whistle reeling down scale over c. 2 seconds, followed by short downward-... read more


    Uses wide variety of habitats: dams, ponds, canals, creeks, swamps, mudflats, beaches with coconut... read more

    Food and feeding

    Wide variety of prey recorded. Insects include mole-crickets (Gryllotalpa), crickets and grasshoppers (Locustidae, Tettigidae,... read more


    Lays in Jun in Egypt, in Apr–May in Israel and Iraq, Mar–Apr and Jul in Pakistan, mainly in Apr–Jul (Jan–Aug) in... read more


    Many populations, from Middle East across to S China (Hong Kong), exhibit partial short-distance... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common throughout its range, and locally abundant, e.g. in India, where densities of between 70 and 145 individuals/km... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis). 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 19 February 2020).