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Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus).01 | by Geoff Whalan
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Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus).01

Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, Middle Point, Northern Territory, Australia.


The sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) is a medium-sized woodland kingfisher that occurs in mangroves, woodlands, forests, and river valleys in Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the western Pacific. In New Zealand the species is also known by its Māori name kōtare.[2]


It is called “sacred” for it was said to be a holy bird for Polynesians,[3] who believed it to have control over the waves. Likewise, the local subspecies of collared kingfisher and other kingfishers in the southwestern Pacific were ascribed venerable power over the ocean.[4]


Sacred kingfishers are found in Australia, New Zealand, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, New Guinea, eastern Indonesia, much of northern and western Melanesia, and the Kermadec Islands. This species breeds throughout much of Australia (except the dry interior), New Zealand, New Caledonia and locally, New Guinea. Populations in the southern two-thirds of Australia migrate northwards at the end of breeding season to New Guinea, east to the eastern Solomon Islands and west to Indonesia becoming uncommon to very sparse as west as Sumatra. Birds move south again to Australia in August to September. It has also occurred as a vagrant on Christmas Island (in the Indian Ocean),[5] Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Nauru.


In Australia, it occurs in eucalypt forests, melaleuca forests, woodland and paperbark forests. In New Zealand, T. sanctus vagans shows altitudinal migration, with post-breeding movement from higher altitudes to the coast and also from forest to coast and open lands.



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Taken on September 6, 2015