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Any of about 90 species of birds (family Alcedinidae), many of which fish for their food. Solitary birds, kingfishers are found worldwide but are chiefly tropical. They have a large head, long and usually narrow bill, compact body, small feet, and usually a short or medium-length tail. Species range from 4 to 17 in. (10–43 cm) long; most have bright, boldly patterned plumage, and many are crested. They utter rattling or piping calls, and they plunge into the water for small fish and other aquatic animals. The only widespread North American species, the belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), is bluish gray above and white below. The forest kingfishers (e.g., kookaburra) have a broader bill.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on kingfisher, visit Britannica.com.