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CORACIIFORMES Rollers and kingfishers

The information presented here is identical to that contained in the fifth edition of the Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand (Checklist Committee 2022). To access a pdf version of the Checklist click here.

➤ Indicates a species (cf. subspecies)
Indicates a species (or other taxon) introduced to the New Zealand region

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Order CORACIIFORMES: Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Rollers

Suborder CORACII: Rollers

Family CORACIIDAE Rafinesque: Rollers

Coracinia Rafinesque, 1815: Analyse de la Nature: 67 – Type genus Coracias Linnaeus, 1758.

Genus Eurystomus Vieillot

Eurystomus Vieillot, 1816: Analyse Nouv. Ornith. Elem.: 37 – Type species (by monotypy) Coracias orientalis Linnaeus = Eurystomus orientalis orientalis (Linnaeus).

Hirundolanius Buller, 1882: Man. Birds of N.Z.: 7 – Type species (by monotypy) Hirundolanius coeruleus Buller = Eurystomus orientalis pacificus (Latham).

 Eurystomus orientalis (Linnaeus)

Coracias orientalis Linnaeus, 1766: Syst. Nat., 12th edition 1: 159 – “India orientali” = Java, Indonesia (fide Schodde 1997, Zool. Cat. Australia 37.2: 386).

Asia and Australasia. Resident, nomadic, or migratory (Higgins 1999). Ten subspecies (Dickinson & Remsen 2013).

Eurystomus orientalis pacificus (Latham)

Coracias pacifica Latham, 1801: Index Ornith. Suppl.: xxvii – “Nova Hollandia”, restricted to Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia (fide Schodde 1997, Zool. Cat. Australia 37.2: 387).

Eurystomus Australis Swainson, 1838: Cabinet Cyclopaedia 98: 326 – “New Holland”, restricted to New South Wales, Australia (fide Schodde 1997, Zool. Cat. Australia 37.2: 387).

Hirundolanius coeruleus Buller, 1882: Man. Birds of N.Z.: 7 – Westport.

Eurystomus pacificus (Latham); Travers 1883, Trans. Proc. N.Z. Inst. 15: 187.

Eurystomus australis Swainson; Buller 1905, Suppl. Birds N.Z. 1: 96.

Eurystomus orientalis pacificus (Latham); Mathews & Iredale 1913, Ibis 1 (10th series): 428.

Eurystomus orientalis; Stidolph 1927, Emu 26: 218. Not Coracias orientalis Linnaeus, 1766.

Breeds in north and east Australia. Migrates at the end of summer to Indonesia and New Guinea (Higgins 1999). Irregular migrant on Norfolk Island (Schodde et al. 1983). Straggler to New Zealand (e.g. Brathwaite 1956; Barlow 1967; Clunie 1971): many records since 1882, mostly of young birds, singly or in small groups, usually between Dec. and May (the time of the northward migration) (Higgins 1999).

Suborder ALCEDINES: Kingfishers, Todies, and Motmots

Family ALCEDINIDAE Rafinesque: Kingfishers

Alcedia Rafinesque, 1815: Analyse de la Nature: 66 – Type genus Alcedo Linnaeus, 1758.

We follow Moyle (2006) and Cracraft (2013) in recognising a single family of kingfishers, with three subfamilies (one of which occurs in New Zealand).

Subfamily HALCYONINAE Vigors: Forest Kingfishers

Halcyonidae Vigors, 1825: Trans. Linn. Soc. London 14(3): 428 – Type genus Halcyon Swainson, 1821.

Genus *Dacelo Leach

Dacelo Leach, 1815: Zool. Miscell. 2: 125 – Type species (by subsequent designation) Alcedo gigantea Latham = Dacelo novaeguineae (Hermann).

 *Dacelo novaeguineae (Hermann)
Laughing Kookaburra

Eastern Australian mainland. Introduced to Western Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand (Higgins 1999). Two subspecies, with D. n. minor Robinson 1900 restricted to northern Queensland (Higgins 1999).

*Dacelo novaeguineae novaeguineae (Hermann)
Laughing Kookaburra

Alcedo novae Guineae Hermann, 1783 (before Nov.): Tabula Affinit. Animalium: 192 – “Nouvelle Guinée”, error for Cumberland, New South Wales, Australia (fide Schodde 1997, Zool. Cat. Australia 37.2: 356).

Alcedo gigas Boddaert, 1783 (Dec.): Tables des Planches Enluminéez d’Histoire Naturelle de M. d’Aubenton: 40 – “Nouvelle Guinée” and “New Holland”, restricted to Cumberland, New South Wales, Australia (fide Schodde 1997, Zool. Cat. Australia 37.2: 356).

Dacelo novaeguineae novaeguineae (Hermann); Checklist Committee 1953, Checklist N.Z. Birds: 58.

Dacelo gigas (Boddaert); Checklist Committee 1970, Annot. Checklist Birds N.Z.: 63.

Dacelo novaeguineae (Hermann); Checklist Committee 1980, Notornis (Suppl.) 27: 21.

Eastern Australian mainland. Introduced to Western Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand (Higgins 1999). In New Zealand a small number persist on Kawau Island and the adjacent mainland from Cape Rodney to the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. These are assumed to be descended from Sir George Grey’s introduction of kookaburras to Kawau Island in the early 1860s (Thomson 1922). Some evidence of an increase southward into urban Auckland (C. Robertson et al. 2007). Stragglers occur more widely in Northland, and occasionally reach other parts of New Zealand as far afield as Otago (Heather & Robertson 1996).

Genus Todiramphus Lesson

Todiramphus Lesson, 1827: Mém. Soc. Hist. Nat. Paris 3: 420 – Type species (by subsequent designation) Todiramphus sacer Lesson = Todiramphus tutus (Gmelin).

Sauropatis Cabanis & Heine, 1860: Mus. Heineanum 2: 158 – Type species (by subsequent designation) Halcyon sanctus Vigors & Horsfield = Todiramphus sanctus (Vigors & Horsfield).

Todirhamphus Salvadori, 1880: Ornitologia Papuasia Molucche 1: 468. Unjustified emendation.

Todiramphus is now used for the Australasian and south-west Pacific kingfishers of this group, leaving Halcyon for the Afro-Asian species (e.g. Christidis & Boles 1994, 2008; Schodde 1997c). A molecular phylogeny supported this (Moyle 2006). Swainson (1821) figured and described the Micronesian kingfisher Todiramphus cinnamominus with a type locality of New Zealand, and Potts (1871) reported two further sightings. Subsequent workers have dismissed these as a mislabelling and mistaken identifications respectively (e.g. Finsch 1873).

 Todiramphus sanctus (Vigors & Horsfield)
Sacred Kingfisher

Halcyon sanctus Vigors & Horsfield, 1827: Trans. Linn. Soc. London 15: 206 – “New Holland”, restricted to New South Wales, Australia (fide Schodde 1997, Zool. Cat. Australia 37.2: 365).

Widespread in Australia (nominate subspecies), Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea, and Solomon Islands (Higgins 1999). Resident in New Zealand and Lord Howe Island (subspecies T. s. vagans), Norfolk Island (T. s. norfolkiensis (Tristram 1885)), the Loyalty Islands (T. s. macmillani (Mayr, 1940)), and New Caledonia (T. s. canacorum (Brasil, 1916)).

Todiramphus sanctus vagans (Lesson)
New Zealand Kingfisher | Kōtare

Alcedo vagans Lesson, 1828: Manuel d’Ornith. 2: 89 – Bay of Islands.

Halcyon vagans (Lesson); G.R. Gray 1843, in E. Dieffenbach, Travels in N.Z. 2: 186.

Alcedo cyanea J.R. Forster, 1844: in M.H.C. Lichtenstein, Descrip. Animalium: 76 – North Island.

Dacelo vagans (Lesson); Peale 1848, U.S. Expl. Exped. 8: 162.

Dacelo albifrons Peale, 1848: U.S. Expl. Exped. 8: 162 – Bay of Islands.

Todirhamphus vagans (Lesson); Bonaparte 1850, Consp. Gen. Avium 1: 157.

Halcyon cinnamominus; Potts 1871, Trans. N.Z. Inst. 3: 71. Not Todiramphus cinnamominus (Swainson, 1821).

Sauropatis sanctus vagans (Lesson); Mathews & Iredale 1913, Ibis 1 (10th series): 429.

Sauropatis sanctus forsteri Mathews & Iredale, 1913: Ibis 1 (10th series): 429 – South Island.

Halcyon sancta vagans (Lesson); Checklist Committee 1953, Checklist N.Z. Birds: 58.

Todiramphus (Todiramphus) sanctus vagans (Lesson); Schodde 1997, Zool. Cat. Australia 37.2: 367.

Widespread throughout North and South Islands, and Stewart Island / Rakiura – and on most offshore islands; also the Kermadec Islands / Rangitāhua. Especially common and widespread in the North Island; least numerous in inland and southern areas of the South Island (C. Robertson et al. 2007). There appears to be a movement in winter from inland high country and forest to lowland farmland and the coast (R.H. Taylor 1966). Straggler to Chatham Islands (Miskelly et al. 2006; Miskelly, Crossland et al. 2019), but no records from any of the subantarctic island groups. Poorly represented in Holocene deposits. This could mean that the species colonised New Zealand relatively recently (Millener 1990), or that it was confined to coastal habitats before the major episode of Māori deforestation 400–600 years ago (Holdaway et al. 2001: 136).