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Kingfishers are vibrant birds both in appearance and behavior, with a long pointed bill, small weak feet, large head, compact body, short neck, and very short legs. The bill and feet are usually black or brown but may be yellow, orange, or red. The bill's shape depends on feeding habits: narrow and flattened at the sides in species that hunt prey by water diving; broad and flattened with distinct upper and lower surfaces in species that catch small ground animals; or especially wide in forest species that search for prey in soil and leaf litter. The feet have three front toes that are fused at their bases. In some species, the second toe is shortened or absent. The metallic-looking plumage is often black, white, or reddish brown, with areas of iridescent blue, purple, or green. Wings are short and rounded, while the tail varies from extremely short to very long. Kingfishers are 4 to 18 inches (10 to 48 centimeters) long, and weigh between 0.3 and 16.4 ounces (9 and 465 grams).


Kingfishers are found on all continents except Antarctica, but are unevenly distributed with regard to species. Most species that live in forests are found in Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia east of Bali and Sulawesi. Others are found on the islands of the Pacific, in western Indonesia, the islands of Java, Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines. A few species are found on the Asian mainland, in India, and the Middle East. Species that live in savannas, grasslands, are found mostly in the tropical region of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar.

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