The Pied Kingfisher is a water kingfisher and is found widely distributed across Africa and Asia. Their black and white plumage, crest and the habit of hovering over clear lakes and rivers before diving for fish makes it distinctive.
This kingfisher is 20cm long and is white with a black mask, a white supercilium and black breast bands. The crest is neat and the upperparts are barred in black. Several subspecies are recognized within the broad distribution.
This kingfisher feeds mainly on fish, although it will take crustaceans and large aquatic insects such as dragonfly larvae. It usually hunts by hovering over the water to detect prey and diving vertically down bill-first to capture fish. When not foraging, they have a straight rapid flight.
They can deal with prey without returning to a perch, and so can hunt over large water bodies or in estuaries that lack perches that are required by other kingfishers. Unlike some kingfishers, it is quite gregarious, and forms large roosts at night.
The breeding season is February to April. Its nest is a hole excavated in a vertical mud bank about five feet above water. The nest tunnel is 4 to 5 feet deep and ends in a chamber. Several birds may nest in the same vicinity. The usual clutch is 3-6 white eggs. The pied kingfisher sometimes reproduces co-operatively, with young non-breeding birds from an earlier brood assisting parents OR even unrelated older birds. In India, nestings have been found to be prone to maggot infestations and in some areas to leeches.