Buff-breasted Paradise or White-tailed Kingfishers

Photo Wanted

Species account by Jeannine Miesle ... Additional information added by Avianweb

Kingfisher Information ... Kingfisher Species Photo Gallery

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


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 rainforest 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 the tail of 17cm - 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 feather are white. It has a black band through 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 a duller plumage, black beaks and lack the long tail of the adults.


Breeding / Nesting

They nests 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 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.


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.


Please Note: The articles or images on this page are the sole property of the authors or photographers. Please contact them directly with respect to any copyright or licensing questions. Thank you.