Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers

Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers (Tanysiptera sylvia)

The Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers (Tanysiptera sylvia) – also known as the White-tailed Kingfisher – is a tree kingfisher with four recognized subspecies.

Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers on a Tree Branch
Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers on a Tree Branch

Subspecies and Distribution

The Paradise Kingfishers are found only in the rainforests of Cape York, Australia. They reside there in the spring, during breeding season. After that, they migrate back to New Guinea or Indonesia for the remainder of the year. They inhabit lowland rainforests and scrubby mountain gullies.

Subspecies and Distribution

  • Tanysiptera Sylvia Sylvia (Nominate Species – Gould, 1850) – Range: North-east Australia, from Cape York to Eurimbula; migrates to South and North New Guinea in March to April.
    • Tanysiptera sylvia leucura (Neumann, 1915) – Range: Umboi I (Bismarck Archipelago)
    • Tanysiptera Sylvia nigriceps (P. L. Sclater, 1877) – Range: New Britain and Duke of York
    • Tanysiptera Sylvia salvadoriana (E. P. Ramsay, 1879) – Range: South-east New Guinea, from R Angabunga to R Kemp-Welch


The Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher is 30cm to 36cm long – including a tail of 17cm to 25cm.

This species is extremely colorful. Its long, magnificent white tail makes up half its total body length. Its forehead, crown, and shoulders are a royal blue, while its lower rump and long central tail feathers are white. It has a black band through the eye, extending to the nape and lower back. Its underparts are a rich apricot, while the bill and legs are a bright orange-red.

Immatures have duller plumage, black beaks, and lack the long tails of adults.

Breeding / Nesting

They nest only in active termite mounds, laying one to three white eggs in a chamber at the end of a tunnel in the termite nest.

The Paradise Kingfisher nests in active terrestrial termite mounds; these mounds are small and dark and only found in the rainforests. The ground-level entrance leads to a newly dug tunnel; this is necessary since the termites fill in the previous year’s hole. They will lay 3-4 white eggs, and both parents incubate the eggs and care for the chicks until they fledge at about 25 days old.

Although this Kingfisher is quite vocal during the breeding season, it is generally a quiet bird. Like other Kingfishers, it expends a great deal of energy and time—as much as two weeks—tunneling out its nest in termite mounds.

Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers Image Eating
Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers Image Eating

Diet / Feeding

This species feeds on insects, spiders, small skinks, small reptiles, and small frogs. It will hunt on both the ground and in trees and other vegetation.

Calls / Vocalizations

The Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers can be heard vocalizing a ‘tcherwill, tcherwill’ sound when they announce or protect their territory. When close to their nests, they emit soft trills.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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