Sacred kingfisher – Todiramphus sanctus

Sacred kingfishers are enigmatic and beautiful visitors to our region in the warmer months. They usually arrive in September and leave around April.

They are Australia’s most common kingfisher and are well adapted to a variety of habitats including woodlands, mangroves and parks and gardens. Their colouration is typically blue/green backs with a buff breast and tummy. The females have duller blue/green and less buff. All Sacred kingfishers can be distinguished from other similar small kingfishers by the buff colour in front of the eye. Similar to other kingfishers though, their preferred hunting method is to perch and then drop and pounce, eating mainly invertebrates but sometimes lizards, crustaceans and fish.

Sacred kingfishers are usually solitary but they visit the Toowoomba region to breed and so usually turn up here in pairs. They mainly nest in a hollow excavated into arboreal termite mounds, but will also nest in tree hollows and river banks. Both parents share in the nest excavation, incubating and feeding duties. They typically lay three to six eggs, and can raise two broods in one season. At the conclusion of the breeding season the birds in the southern two-thirds of Australia migrate northwards and can travel as far as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The northern populations remain resident in Australia.

Juvenile Sacred kingfisher missing it’s tail feathers

These birds are highly acrobatic when chasing each other and can wheel and turn quite swiftly. Their call is always startling though and is a harsh kee-kee-kee. For more on these beautiful birds see and the Bird Bites facebook and youtube channels.

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald 20th of November 2023