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Indian Small Blue Kingfisher, Female? - Fukuoka, Japan (1 Viewer)

Faer Out

Member
Japan
Hi. I'm new here.

I found something seemingly unusual. I think I can readily ID this bird as an Indian Small Blue Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis bengalensis (Common Kingfisher).

Females can be distinguished readily by their lower mandibles being extensively orange except for the tip. However, here is a bird where there is just a touch of orange there. Anyone seen something like this? Perhaps it's young or something? Are there any instances of males having some orange there?
 

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delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
Scotland
Hi Faer Out and a warm welcome to you from all the Staff and Moderators.

Thanks for bringing this up, I've often wondered if the small amount of orange denoted a younger bird.

I'm sure you will enjoy it here and I look forward to hearing your news.
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
I think the visibility and apparent extent of the red on the female bill depends a lot on the light. But you might be right about it being a juvenile, as at the rear of the bill there is a narrow orange line which might be the juvenile / nestling gape line. To have fledged by mid-April would be early, but not too early, I think, especially this year when the weather has been so warm - Fukuoka City had the hottest equal ever February, and March at 13.5ºC was 1ºC warmer than any March on record.
 

Grahame Walbridge

Well-known member
I think the visibility and apparent extent of the red on the female bill depends a lot on the light. But you might be right about it being a juvenile, as at the rear of the bill there is a narrow orange line which might be the juvenile / nestling gape line. To have fledged by mid-April would be early, but not too early, I think, especially this year when the weather has been so warm - Fukuoka City had the hottest equal ever February, and March at 13.5ºC was 1ºC warmer than any March on record.
It's not a juvenile, they have dark brown/black fore tarsi and upperside of toes. Before attempting to sex the bird you should examine it more closely in the hand to look at moult limit in wings; 2cy shows worn (juvenile) outer P and inner S and sometimes a moult limit in tail. Re sexing adults amount of orange in bill is somewhat variable, but females do show more (<1/3=male; >1/3=female). My guess is the bird is a likely female based on combination of bill pattern and saturation of orange on underparts i.e breast is paler orange.

Grahame
 
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Faer Out

Member
Japan
Thanks, everyone. Perhaps these angles are helpful. The photos were taken on 2021/02/25. The orange is quite faint, but the color seems to extend to about 1/3 of the bill. I wasn't aware of the difference in chest color depending on underparts.
 

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Faer Out

Member
Japan
Now that I look again, this bird definitely has more saturated colors and no orange at all on the bill. This would be a male then. This photo taken in the same location, just a minute or two's walk away, earlier in the month. 2021/02/08.
 

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Faer Out

Member
Japan
I think the visibility and apparent extent of the red on the female bill depends a lot on the light. But you might be right about it being a juvenile, as at the rear of the bill there is a narrow orange line which might be the juvenile / nestling gape line. To have fledged by mid-April would be early, but not too early, I think, especially this year when the weather has been so warm - Fukuoka City had the hottest equal ever February, and March at 13.5ºC was 1ºC warmer than any March on record.
You are right about Fukuoka being quite warm. The weather has been enjoyable but on a deeper level, terrifying. Though weather throughout the country varies a bit, there was a report that cherry blossoms were in full bloom the earliest ever recorded this year—and the records go back 1200 years.
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
You are right about Fukuoka being quite warm. The weather has been enjoyable but on a deeper level, terrifying. Though weather throughout the country varies a bit, there was a report that cherry blossoms were in full bloom the earliest ever recorded this year—and the records go back 1200 years.
The cherry started blossoming 16 days early here in Nara City, and was basically finished before the end of March. All sorts of records have fallen in the last few years and often by large margins: I could bore you for a while, but to pick just one that is frightening is the overnight minimum.

Until 2017, the Nara record for the number of days/nights where the minimum didn't drop below 25ºC was 13 (1994), then 12 (2010), 8 (1991), 7 (2011), 6 (2013) and 6 (2002) - note also that three of these six are in this decade (the records go back to 1953, and I'm referring to the City which is in the north, not the mountainous areas in the south).

But then: 2017 - 20, 2018 - 33, 2019 - 24 and 2020 - 24. Four years like this in a row, and it's starting to sound like climate, not just weather,
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
I looked up some photos of Common Kingfisher from the last ten years in my region of central Japan in Nara (near Osaka).

1. Grahame is of course right and I am wrong about juveniles. I found a few pictures of juveniles from years ago, and it's not just a matter of the colour of the tarsi, but the blue malar line is black in the juvenile, and the breast is also blackish (photos 1 & 2 & 3). In addition, the reddish line that I mentioned as a possible juvenile gape line is visible on some adult birds, but is blackish in others.

2. In Japan, both the books and local birders I know say that the male has an all-black bill photos 4 & 5; any red indicates a female, photos 6 & 7.

3. Looking at my photos, it seems that the female often seems a little greener than the male in the blue plumage on the head and wings.

Photos 1 and 2 are the same bird. All the others are different individuals.

150620026 Nara Ponds.jpg 150620022 Nara Ponds.jpg 150905082 Nara Ponds.jpg 131205028 Nara Ponds.jpg 110215075 Nara Ponds.jpg 111221004 Nara Ponds.jpg 151228004 Nara Ponds.jpg
 

Grahame Walbridge

Well-known member
Juvenile malars are always blue, not black, as they quite clearly are in your images! The bill critria is true for all taxa; it applies to bengalensis in S and SE Asia which is the taxon occurring in Japan. It is true that in most books they illustrate males with all black bills but in better references they often refer to limited orange in the base in the text. And yes, there are subtle differences in upper part colouration but this sorts of detail is usually only dealt with in an in depth ringers manual.

Grahame
 

Faer Out

Member
Japan
Juvenile malars are always blue, not black, as they quite clearly are in your images! The bill critria is true for all taxa; it applies to bengalensis in S and SE Asia which is the taxon occurring in Japan. It is true that in most books they illustrate males with all black bills but in better references they often refer to limited orange in the base in the text. And yes, there are subtle differences in upper part colouration but this sorts of detail is usually only dealt with in an in depth ringers manual.

Grahame
Fantastic, thank you! I don't have one of those manuals of great detail but would love to access one.
 

Grahame Walbridge

Well-known member
Absolutely not Mac, though my comment was a little rushed and I should have explained it better, I was referring to the whole moustachial. I assume you are referring to the apparent dark leading edge in the malar region which is the due to the more extensive dark spotting creating a shadow.

And re bill I could have worded it better along the lines adult males typically have all black bills, (and that's how they are illustrated) but a few can show a patchy pale orange to basal 1/3 of lower mandible.

Faer Out, sadly no such reference for the region for non-passerines though there is a recently published work on migratory East Asian passerines.

Grahame























































































 
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Faer Out

Member
Japan
Absolutely not Mac, though my comment was a little rushed and I should have explained it better, I was referring to the whole moustachial. I assume you are referring to the apparent dark leading edge in the malar region which is the due to the more extensive dark spotting creating a shadow.

And re bill I could have worded it better along the lines adult males typically have all black bills, (and that's how they are illustrated) but a few can show a patchy pale orange to basal 1/3 of lower mandible.

Faer Out, sadly no such reference for the region for non-passerines though there is a recently published work on migratory East Asian passerines.

Grahame
I found the book; looks quite nice! A bit pricey. I will think about it. Wish there was a cheaper PDF.
 

MacNara

Well-known member
Japan
Juvenile malars are always blue, not black, as they quite clearly are in your images! The bill critria is true for all taxa; it applies to bengalensis in S and SE Asia which is the taxon occurring in Japan. It is true that in most books they illustrate males with all black bills but in better references they often refer to limited orange in the base in the text. And yes, there are subtle differences in upper part colouration but this sorts of detail is usually only dealt with in an in depth ringers manual.

Grahame
Hi Grahame, sorry to reply to this again, but...

I have realised that I misinterpreted your comment - when you said 'blue, not black, as they clearly are in your images', I interpreted 'your' as meaning Faer Out's images, not mine of juvenile birds; and the colour you were talking about when you said, they are' as being black since 'black' was the nearest colour mentioned and therefore grammatically should have been the colour you were referring to when you said 'they', not blue.

But even so, compared with the adult bird, the juvenile malar is blackish as shown in my photos, if not solid black, and it's not solid blue, let alone adult kingfisher blue, which is all I meant, trying to support your point about the dark legs with the similar darker colour of the juvenile breast and malar as compared to the adult.

As for the bill, the books I have all say the male has a black bill, and the female has some red on the lower mandible. However, I agree that some books are imprecise. 'Birds of Europe' second edition (Svensson et al) says, 'Sexes similar, but in breeding pairs [my emphasis], male has all-black bill and female reddish base to lower mandible', which leaves open the question as to whether things might be different outside the breeding season (and if so, whether the female gets some red on an otherwise black bill, or whether the male loses some red to develop an all-black bill).
 

Grahame Walbridge

Well-known member
I repeat males, including some/few adults (unspecified %), show a small (<1/3) amount of patchy orange to base of lower mandible. See Identification Guide to Birds in the Hand (Demongin 2016); Advanced Bird ID Handbook (Van Duivandijk 2011) + numerous other references. I am perfectly aware of what Lars says, but this a field guide and limited space dictates that they do not necessarily go into that level detail for any species-thy illustrate and describe the norm. However, and I would concede, it is perfectly plausible an adult males bill becomes all black at the height of the breeding season.

And see http://blascozumeta.com/wp-content/uploads/aragon-birds/non-passeriformes/282.kingfisher-aatthis.pdf

You are trying to ague a point re black malars based on images which, let's face it, are not very sharp. Next you will telling me juveniles have black napes along with a black adjoining line from the moustachials, because that is what your image 1/7 appears to show. Juveniles do not have black malars, its shadow/artefact. The moustachials are uniform, duller, green in tone with more obvious, darker (not black) bars in line with other plumage differences.

My advice is go away and examine some specimens.

Grahame
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Here are two juveniles in Hong Kong (also bengalensis, as in Japan). The malar/moustachial is dull green-blue with brighter blue spots, similar to the crown and wings - not bright blue like in the adults but not black either. Orange colours on the underparts and ear coverts are duller than in adults and there is a grey wash to the breast (the legs are also dark, but not visible here of course). I think juvenile bills are always black, so they cannot be sexed at this age.
 

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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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