Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris 冠魚狗

Category I. Occasional rare visitor to rocky streams and reservoirs; has attempted to breed.


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Nov. 2017, Kinni Ho. Female.

38-43 cm. Superficially similar to Pied Kingfisher but is larger and darker with an obvious crest and occurs in different habitat. Head, upperparts and tail dark grey spotted with white, white throat and collar separated by thick malar, broad band across lower chest and barred flanks. Adult male has rufous feathers admixed in breast band, while the female lacks this.

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Nov. 2017, Kinni Ho. Female.

Upperparts, upper wings and tail are dark relieved by white spots, and so appears much darker than Pied Kingfisher.


The flight call is a fairly loud and moderately high-pitched ‘kip’.


In HK, where riverine habitat is scarce, Crested Kingfishr utilises reservoirs, forested streams and creeks, rocky coastlines and undisturbed fish ponds with large overhanging trees.

Localities where this species was reported in earlier literature are Tolo Harbour (Vaughan and Jones 1913), Lam Tsuen valley, Brides Pool and Tsing Yi (Herklots 1934), Tai Po Kau (Herklots 1953) and Starling Inlet (Dove and Goodhart 1955). Most reports in the 1950s and 1960s were from Tai Lam Chung Reservoir and Pak Tam (Sai Kung). It was not subsequently recorded until late 1983 when a pair attempted to breed at Plover Cove. Since 1986 it has mainly been seen in the northeast and east New Territories at Nam Chung, Bride’s Pool, Plover Cove Reservoir, Lai Chi Wo, So Lo Pun, Tai Mei Tuk and Ting Kok. Elsewhere, it has occurred at Pak Tam Chung, on Lantau at Yi O and Tung Chung and even (once) at Tsim Bei Tsui.


Crested Kingfisher has always been a sporadic visitor to HK in a manner that suggests dispersal from areas of occurrence in the region followed by temporary occupancy. It has not been recorded as a large population, nor with any degree of predictability in the manner of a migrant species. Figure 1 illustrates the pattern of occurrence since 1957.

The first record in HKBWS files concerns one at Tai Lam Chung Reservoir on 21 October 1957 (not as stated in Carey et al. (2001)). It was recorded sporadically in the 1950s and 1960s, but not at all in the 1970s. The next record concerned a pair that attempted to breed at Plover Cover in winter 1984/84, but in the same decade it was only reported on two other occasions, both in the northeast New Territories. It was recorded more frequently at a wider spread of sites in the 1990s (almost annually) as observer activity increased. However, despite even higher levels of observer activity since then, the frequency of sightings reduced after the turn of the century, and it is now seen less much less than annually. There was a five year gap between 2004 and 2009 and it was only recorded in one year (2017) from 2009 to 2020.


Herklots (1967) refers to a pair resident in Lam Tsuen Valley in the 1930s, and a second pair recognised in 1947 as probably resident in the “Tai Po Kau valley”.

A pair seen at Plover Cove from 20 December 1983 to 11 March 1984 attempted to breed in a nest hole; however, the outcome was uncertain, and it appears likely they failed. There is no substantive evidence of breeding activity since then. However, it is likely that HK has always been a marginal location for this species given the relative lack of suitable habitat.


Dives for fish from a perch and does not hover in the manner of Pied Kingfisher.


Resident from the Himalayas east to south and east China as far north as Liaoning province and into North Korea, and south to north Indochina (Woodall 2020).

Four subspecies are recognised of which M. l. guttulata occurs from the east Himalayas east to China and south to north Indochina.


IUCN: Least Concern. Population trend decreasing.

Figure 1.

Carey, G. J., M. L. Chalmers, D. A. Diskin, P. R. Kennerley, P. J. Leader, M. R. Leven, R. W. Lewthwaite, D. S. Melville, M. Turnbull and L. Young (2001). The Avifauna of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Hong Kong.

Dove, R. S. and H. J. Goodhart (1955). Field notes on local bird records. Memoirs of the Hong Kong Biological Circle 1: 1-4.

Herklots, G. A. C. (1934). The birds of Hong Kong. Part XV. Family Alcedinidae, the kingfishers. Hong Kong Naturalist 5: 77-79.

Herklots, G. A. C. (1953). Hong Kong Birds. South China Morning Post, Hong Kong.

Herklots, G. A. C. (1967). Hong Kong Birds (2nd ed.). South China Morning Post, Hong Kong.

Vaughan, R. E. and K. H. Jones (1913). The birds of Hong Kong, Macao and the West River or Si Kiang in South-East China, with special reference to their nidification and seasonal movements. Ibis 1913: 17-76, 163-201, 351-384.

Woodall, P. F. (2020). Crested Kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

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