This week, we’re celebrating the world’s kingfishers! There are about 90 species of kingfisher in the world. These darling birds are often colorful, and they can be found all around the world. Join us as we highlight kingfishers on the Birdorable blog this week! Today we're sharing some fun kingfisher coloring pages!

Here is some hump-day fun for this mid-Kingfisher-week. Kingfishers are among the most colorful birds in the world. The Common Kingfisher, found across parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, is one of the most widespread kingfisher species. With its beautiful blue body plumage highlighted by rufous and white, it is known as the most colorful bird of Great Britain. The Belted Kingfisher is common across much of North America. Females of the species are more colorful; they sport a rufous breast band in addition to a mostly slate-blue body plumage. The Stork-billed Kingfisher, found in parts of Asia, has a lovely muted color palette that includes blue, brown, buff, and red.

kingfisher-coloring-preview

Direct links to the coloring pages:

Find more coloring pages for other species on our free coloring page downloads. And be sure to check out the color schemes for these and all of our birds by visiting the Meet the Birds section of our site.

Kingfisher Extremes

Common Kingfisher

This week, we’re celebrating the world’s kingfishers! There are about 90 species of kingfisher in the world. These darling birds are often colorful, and they can be found all around the world. Join us as we highlight kingfishers on the Birdorable blog this week! Today we're sharing some fascinating extreme facts about kingfishers.

Smallest Kingfisher

Kingfishers can be tiny. The smallest species of kingfisher is the African Dwarf Kingfisher, which averages just 4 inches in length. This bird weighs only 9 grams (0.32 oz) and can be found across central Africa.

African Dwarf Kingfisher by John Gerrard KeulemansAfrican Dwarf Kingfisher by John Gerrard Keulemans

Largest Kingfisher

Kingfishers can also be big. The largest species of kingfisher is the appropriately named Giant Kingfisher, which averages 18 inches in length. This African bird weighs up to 425 grams.

Giant Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher by puliarfanita (CC BY 2.0)

Oldest Kingfisher

Kingfishers live a long time. The longest-lived known wild Common Kingfisher was at least 21 years old. The longest-lived known wild Green Kingfisher was at least five years old. Both of these records are known through bird banding.

Largest Range

Kingfishers are widespread. The kingfisher species with the broadest ranges in terms of size are the Common Kingfisher and the Pied Kingfisher.

Ancient Kingfishers

The kingfisher family has been around a long time. The oldest known fossil from the kingfisher family is 2 million years old!

Longest Migration

Kingfishers can fly the distance. In 2011 a Common Kingfisher broke the known migration record for its species when it flew over 620 miles from Poland to the UK.

Endangered Species

Some kingfishers are in trouble. The two most endangered species of kingfisher are the Tuamotu Kingfisher (about 135 in the wild in 2009) and the Micronesian (or Guam) Kingfisher, which is extinct in the wild (about 124 in captivity in 2013).

Micronesian Kingfisher
Micronesian Kingfisher by ideonexus (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Birdorable Kingfisher Gifts

This week, we're celebrating the world's kingfishers! There are about 90 species of kingfisher in the world. These darling birds are often colorful, and they can be found all around the world. Join us as we highlight kingfishers on the Birdorable blog this week!

Today we highlight the beautiful White-throated Kingfisher. The White-throated Kingfisher is also known by the names White-breasted Kingfisher or Smyrna Kingfisher. The Latin name is Halcyon smyrnensis.

The range of the White-throated Kingfisher spreads across the Indian Subcontinent, and extends into Southeast Asia and China to the east, and across the Middle East and Turkey to the west. White-throated Kingfishers are found in a variety of habitats, including agricultural lands, deciduous forest, beaches, and suburban landscapes. They are found in elevations ranging from 0 to over 7500 feet.

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis perpulchra)White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis perpulchra) by Lip Kee Yap (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The song of the White-throated Kingfisher is described as a loud trill or whistle. Courtship involves display of the white patches on the male kingfisher's outstretched wing. He may also perform a spiral diving flight during pair bonding. To express her interest, the female bird will shake her partially outstretched wings.

White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensisWhite-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis by Ron Knight (CC BY 2.0)

White-throated Kingfishers nest in the banks of streams or other similar locations. The nesting pair will typically have 4-7 eggs; both parents will incubate the eggs and care for the growing chicks. Baby White-throated Kingfishers fledge at 26 or 27 days of age. White-throated Kingfishers are opportunistic carnivores. They dine on a variety of prey items, which may include locusts and grasshoppers, fish, small mammals, lizards, and even small birds.

White-throated Kingfisher Gifts

This week, we're celebrating the world's kingfishers! There are about 90 species of kingfisher in the world. These darling birds are often colorful, and they can be found all around the world. Join us as we highlight kingfishers on the Birdorable blog October 5-11, 2014! To kick things off, here is a look back at some previous kingfisher posts from our blog.

Kingfishers come in many sizes. Some supersized kingfishers that live in Australia and New Guinea are known as kookaburras, and we have featured them on our blog before: the Rufous-bellied Kookaburra and the Laughing Kookaburra.

We've highlighted other species of kingfisher on our blog as well: Pied Kingfisher; the Green Kingfisher; and the Belted Kingfisher.

The Common Kingfisher is found across parts of Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. This charismatic species was crowned Germany's Bird of the Year in 2009. Join us this week as we highlight kingfisher species, kingfisher facts, and other fun kingfisher topics in the coming days!

Vulture Humor

We're celebrating Vulture Week because this Saturday, September 6th, marked International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD). This commemorative day has been celebrated since at least 2009 and aims to highlight the importance of vultures and vulture conservation through education. Happy Monday, vulture lovers! Here are some vulture jokes to kick off your week with a laugh!

Vulture underwear joke:

Q: What is a vulture's favorite kind of underwear?
A: Thermals! They're always flying in them.

Vulture airplane joke:

A vulture boards an airplane with three dead raccoons. The flight attendant says to him, "I'm sorry, sir, it's only two carrion per passenger."

Vulture clown joke:

Two vultures are in a field, eating a dead clown. One vulture says to the other, "Does this taste funny to you?"

Rare vulture joke:

A White-backed Vulture, a California Condor, and a Red-headed Vulture walk into a bar. The bartender says, "This is amazing, I better call the Audubon Society!"

Do you know any vulture jokes? Share them with us in the comments! In the meanwhile, have a great week, everyone, and remember to always...

Keep Calm and Carrion

We're celebrating Vulture Week because this Saturday, September 6th, marked International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD). This commemorative day has been celebrated since at least 2009 and aims to highlight the importance of vultures and vulture conservation through education.

Birdorable Palm-nut Vulture

Palm-nut Vultures are unusual among vultures and even among other birds of prey in that vegetable matter is a regular part of their diet. It is estimated that up to 65% of the diet of adult Palm-nut Vultures is made up of palm fruits, wild dates, and other plant material. In juvenile birds, this may be up to 90%! Their method of feeding on palm nut fruits is quite unusual. Palm-nut Vultures sometimes hang upside-down, holding the fruit in their talons, and using their beaks to pull off pieces to eat.

PNV Upside Down

The remainder of the Palm-nut Vulture's diet consists of prey items like fish, crabs, small mammals, reptiles, and other birds. They are sometimes known by the name "Vulturine Fish Eagle." Palm-nut Vultures on feed on carrion occasionally. Palm-nut Vultures live in parts of Africa. Their range, which overlaps with the oil and raffia palm, is widespread; they can be found as far north as The Gambia and Kenya, and as far south as South Africa. Palm-nut Vultures are resident birds throughout their range; they may disperse seasonally but they are not migratory. During breeding season, they build (or reuse and improve) a large nest made of sticks in a tall tree. A single egg is laid per season and both parents incubate and care for the egg and for the growing chick.

buitre palmero (retrato) - Palm-nut Vulture
Palm-nut Vulture by Ferran Pestaña (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Male and female Palm-nut Vultures look alike. Females average slightly larger than males, as is typical for most birds of prey. An adult's plumage is all white, with black feathers on the wings and an orange-red patch of bare skin on the face. Since they do not feed primarily on carrion, they have a more fully feathered head than other vultures. Palm-nut Vultures may live up to 27 years in captivity.

Palm-nut Vulture Gifts

We're celebrating Vulture Week because today marks International Vulture Awareness Day! This commemorative day has been celebrated since at least 2009 and aims to highlight the importance of vultures and vulture conservation through education.

Why are vultures bald?

Bald VultureWhen vultures feed on animal carcasses, they may poke their heads into some messy spots to pick out yummy bits to eat. Having a bald head means that they won't get dirty feathers at mealtime, saving them from picking up nasty bacteria and carrying it around in their heads. Vultures may also regulate their body temperature by adjusting the amount of bare skin that's exposed to the environment. Some vultures do have feathers on their heads, like the Lammergeier and Palm Nut Vulture. Carrion is not the main source of food for these species.

 

How can I tell the difference between Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures?

Both of these New World vultures can be found throughout much of Central and South America. In North America, both Turkey and Black Vultures occur in the southeast. There are a few ways to tell the species apart. Black Vultures are smaller than Turkey Vultures. Turkey Vultures have red heads; the Black Vulture's head is very dark grey. While soaring, Turkey Vultures fly with their wings in a slight V-shape, known as a dihedral angle. The entire trailing edge of the Turkey Vulture's wing is light grey or white. In the Black Vulture, only the very outer flight feathers appear white.

Differences between Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture

Why are vultures endangered?

Vultures around the world are facing various threats. Yesterday we covered some of these threats in our blog post Threats Facing Vultures.

Are vultures and buzzards the same?

The short answer is no. Technically speaking, vultures and buzzards belong to very different families of birds. Vultures are large carrion-eating birds. Buzzards are buteos -- North America's Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and Europe's Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) are both part of this family. North Americans call buteos "hawks", while the rest of the world may know this same family of birds as "buzzards". In North America, a common colloquial name for vulture is buzzard. Early settlers may have called all of the large birds they saw "buzzards" -- and this common name stuck to the vultures.

I Love Vultures

Why do vultures vomit?

New World species of vulture may vomit when they feel threatened. This serves two purposes. Vomiting empties the stomach and lightens the bird if it needs to make a quick get-away. Vulture vomit is also extremely foul, and the putrid puke may serve to repel or at least distract any potential predators or threats.

Why do vultures fly in circles?

Black Vulture circlingWhen you see vultures circling above, they are not loitering in the sky waiting for a potential prey item to die. Vultures do use thermals, or naturally occurring rising columns of hot air, to assist in soaring flight. In this way they are able to conserve energy as they search for carrion.

 

Where do vultures live?

New World vultures are found in the Americas, while Old World vultures inhabit parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Vultures are found on every continent except for Antarctica and Australia. We have this informative Vultures of the World map available for download or purchase.

Vultures of the World Map

We're celebrating Vulture Week because this Saturday, September 6th, marks International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD). This commemorative day has been celebrated since at least 2009 and aims to highlight the importance of vultures and vulture conservation through education.

Vultures around the world are in trouble. Over half of the world's vulture species are considered to be threatened with extinction or endangered. What are some of the threats facing these ecologically important birds?

Poison, including secondary poisoning

Vultures feed on carrion. In some places, a primary source of food for vultures is domestic cattle. Cattle that has been medicated may be toxic to the vultures that consume them. The anti-inflammatory livestock drug diclofenac is a huge problem for vultures across parts of Asia and Africa. Lead poisoning is a particular problem for the California Condor. Lead ammunition falls into the food chain when hunted animals are left behind by irresponsible hunters. Big game poachers in Africa are also accused of deliberately poisoning vultures to help conceal the sites where their illegal poaching takes place.

Top of the pile
Top of the pile by Lip Kee Yap (CC BY-SA 2.0) (Rueppell's Vulture)

Persecution

Some cultures believe vultures to be harbingers of death. There is also belief that vultures threaten healthy domestic livestock. These mistaken beliefs lead to direct hunting or persecution of vultures. Power lines and windmills Due to their large size and tendency to soar in flight, vultures are particularly vulnerable to power line collisions and electrocution. Windfarms placed in areas with strong wind currents may be sharing space with large birds that use these same currents to conserve energy during flight. Windfarms are dangerous for vultures and many other species of bird, especially when mills are placed close to known bird migration routes.

Collisions with vehicles

Vultures that live in populated areas often find roadkill to be an easy source of food, but a dangerous one as well. Roadside dining is unsafe and vultures may suffer the same fate as their last meal.

What can you do to help vultures?

Keep Calm & Save VulturesVultures can use all the friends they can get! Do your part to help make the world a better place for our vulture friends. You can support policies and lawmakers that favor vultures and the environment. If you know someone that hunts, talk with them about using lead-alternative ammunition and practicing wildlife-friendly habits. If you find yourself driving by birds on the roadside, slow down and be prepared to stop if needed and if it is safe to do so. Consider your own use of pesticides or any other cases of adding chemicals to the environment. Learn about the vultures that live in your area and what specific threats they may be facing. Visit local wildlife centers to learn more about vultures. You might even get to meet a vulture in person!

We're celebrating Vulture Week because this Saturday, September 6th, marks International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD). This commemorative day has been celebrated since at least 2009 and aims to highlight the importance of vultures and vulture conservation through education.

Birdorable Andean Condor

The Andean Condor is one of two types of condor, along with the California Condor. Both of these fall under the family Cathartidae, or New World Vulture. The Andean Condor is one of the world's largest flying birds, with a wingspan that may measure over 10 feet across. Among vultures found in the Americas, the Andean Condor is the only species to show sexual dimorphism. This means that males and females have a different appearance. Mature male Andean Condors have a large fleshy comb resting atop the head, which is reddish. Adult females have dark, uncombed heads. In most birds of prey, females are larger than males, but the Andean Condor defies this rule; males are larger than females.

Male Andean Condor
Male Andean Condor by Eric Kilby (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Like most other vulture species, the Andean Condor feeds primarily on carrion. They may travel 100 miles or more in a day in search of food, which includes the carcasses of large mammals like llamas, deer, cattle, and boar. Andean Condors are excellent at soaring using rising columns of hot air called thermals. Andean Condors can be found along the western mountain ranges of South America, including the Andes and the Santa Marta Mountains. Their range overlaps with other New World vulture species, and they may follow Turkey Vultures, Lesser Yellow-headed and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures to carcasses.

andean condor
andean condor by vil.sandi (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Andean Condor is a national symbol for several South American countries, including Bolivia, where it is the official national bird. Condors were revered in Andean mythology and is sometimes considered to be a symbol of power and health. Andean Condors mate for life. They reach full maturity after five or six years and may live to be 50 years old or more in the wild; a captive condor lived to be at least 72 years of age. Pairs typically raise one chick every other year. The population trend for the Andean Condor is decreasing, and the IUCN Red List considers the species to be Near Threatened. They face challenges from habitat loss, secondary poisoning, persecution, and other man-made threats.

Cute Andean Condor Gifts

This Saturday, September 6th, marks International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD). This commemorative day has been celebrated since at least 2009 and aims to highlight the importance of vultures and vulture conservation through education. We'd like to focus on vultures this week through a series of blog posts featuring these important families of birds. As an introduction, here are some vulture highlights from our blog and website archives.

Birdorable Vultures of the World Map in English and Spanish
  • Our Vultures of the World map shows where all of the world's 23 vulture species can be found. This is a free printable poster download (the map is also available for purchase in larger formats).
Vulture Coloring Pages

Join us this week as we highlight vulture species, vulture biology and other fun vulture topics in the coming days! We're excited to gear up to celebrate another International Vulture Awareness Day!