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6 Fascinating Facts About the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, or Tanysiptera sylvia, is a small bird species that is endemic to the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. This colorful bird is named for its beautiful buff-colored underparts and iridescent turquoise, blue, and green upperparts.

In this article, we will discuss the identification, plumage, and molts of the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher.


Field Identification

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a small bird that measures around 16-18 cm in length. It has a turquoise-blue crown and upperparts, which contrast nicely with its buff-colored underparts.

The wings are short and rounded, with a distinctive black and white pattern. The tail is long and pointed, with a white tip.

The bill is thin and slightly curved, ideal for catching insects on the fly. The eyes are bright red or orange.

Similar Species

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is sometimes confused with other kingfisher species such as the Common Paradise-Kingfisher and the Blue-winged Kookaburra. The Common Paradise-Kingfisher has a similar color pattern, but is larger and has a heavier bill.

The Blue-winged Kookaburra has a similar bill shape, but is much larger and has a different color pattern.


The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a sexually dimorphic bird, with males and females having different color patterns. The males have a more iridescent and brighter coloration, while females have a duller and less iridescent coloration.


The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher undergoes a complete post-juvenile body molt, which usually occurs between December and February. During this time, the bird replaces all its feathers with new ones, which helps to maintain its flight and insulating capabilities.


In conclusion, the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a beautiful and fascinating bird species that is native to the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. Its distinctive turquoise-blue crown and upperparts, combined with its buff-colored underparts and black and white wings, make it easily recognizable.

With this article, we hope that we have provided readers with some useful information about the identification, plumages, and molts of this stunning bird.

Systematics History

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher was first described by John Gould in 1842. Initially, it was placed within the genus Alcedo, which is the same genus as the Common Kingfisher found in Europe.

However, later taxonomies classified this species under the genus Tanysiptera, which is a group of birds that are known as the tree kingfishers. The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is the only species of kingfisher within this genus that is found in New Guinea.

Geographic Variation

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher exhibits significant geographic variation, which is mostly due to the presence of different subspecies across its range. The bird’s range includes the islands of New Guinea and some nearby smaller islands, such as Salawati, Misool, and Yapen.


There are five recognized subspecies of the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher, each with distinct geographic ranges and variations in physical appearance:

– Tanysiptera sylvia sylvia: This is the nominal subspecies, and it is found in the north-central and northeastern regions of New Guinea. – Tanysiptera sylvia hylandi: This subspecies is found in the southeast region of New Guinea.

– Tanysiptera sylvia viridicauda: This subspecies is found in the Aru Islands and some nearby smaller islands. – Tanysiptera sylvia incei: This subspecies is found in Yapen Island.

– Tanysiptera sylvia intermedia: This subspecies is found in Salawati Island.

Related Species

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher belongs to the genus Tanysiptera, which includes twelve species of kingfishers that are found in New Guinea and surrounding islands. The family of tree kingfishers, Halcyonidae, contains the closely related Sacred Kingfisher, a species found in Australia, New Zealand, and several nearby islands.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher has experienced significant historical changes to its distribution over the years. Loss of habitat due to deforestation, mining, and other human activities has led to a decline in the population of this species, which is now considered Near Threatened by the International Union for

Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In the past, there were also several attempts to introduce the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher to regions outside its natural range. These attempts, however, have been largely unsuccessful due to a variety of factors including inappropriate habitats and competition with native bird species.

In the early 20th century, efforts were made to introduce this species to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia. However, these attempts failed to establish a viable population of the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher.

In another attempt to introduce the bird, a dozen pairs of the species were released in the forests surrounding the British Solomon Islands in the 1930s. Yet, these attempts were met with failure and by the early 1950s, no trace of the birds could be found.

More recently, a new trend of reintroducing threatened birds has emerged across the world. For example, in Papua New Guinea, a conservation group known as the Tenkile

Conservation Alliance has been working to reintroduce the endangered Tenkile tree kangaroo to the forests of Torricelli Mountains.

This model of reintroduction can be replicated in the conservation of the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher by creating suitable habitats and providing secure sources of food. In conclusion, the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a unique bird species with several subspecies and a broad distribution range across New Guinea and surrounding islands.

The species has undergone significant historical changes to its geographic distribution, and the birds habitat has been declining due to various forms of human activities. Although attempts have been made to introduce the bird to new regions, these attempts have largely been unsuccessful.

Therefore, conservation efforts must ensure that habitats and food sources for the species are maintained and that the bird is not lost to extinction.


The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is found in tropical rainforests, especially those that are near rivers and streams. These areas provide the bird with plenty of insects, which make up a significant portion of its diet.

The habitat range of the species also includes swampy areas, savannas with trees, and secondary forests. The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is an example of a bird species that is negatively impacted by deforestation and habitat loss due to human activities.

The clearing of forests for agricultural and mining purposes, as well as logging of trees, have led to the destruction of the birds natural habitat. These factors have led to a decline in the population of the species, which is now classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Movements and Migration

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a non-migratory bird species and is generally sedentary throughout its range. However, there are some instances where the bird may move to different locations in search of food or better nesting sites.

During the breeding season, males may patrol their territory and defend it against intruders. In some cases, the male may even carry out courtship display flights to attract a female or to scare off competitors.

Although the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is not a migratory bird, it has been observed that sub-populations between regions may be genetically distinctive. Gene flow between sub-populations is limited due to genetic isolation, geographical barriers and competition between regions.

These sub-populations are essential, as they help the species to adapt to different environmental conditions and promote evolutionary diversity. The species does exhibit minor altitudinal movements, as seen in the populations of Tanysiptera sylvia hylandi in the southeast region of New Guinea which has been known to move up into the highland areas for short periods.

The reasons for the movement are still unclear, but it can be due to different ecological factors in the highlands, such as fluctuations of resources, seasonal variation or predator avoidance.


The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN due to the loss of habitat primarily due to deforestation and logging activities across the birds range. The conservation of the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is fundamental for the healthy functioning of its ecosystem, as it is an essential part of the forest ecosystem.

Conservation needs to focus on protecting the bird’s habitat and reducing the damaging activities, ensuring that tree kingfishers have access to enough food throughout their range. Efforts are being made to protect the remaining populations of the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher.

One such effort is the establishment of protected areas, such as national parks and other conservation reserves that restrict human activities in the areas crucial to the bird’s survival. Education and awareness campaigns directed at local communities surrounding the bird’s habitat are also crucial, as these groups can be a potent force for conservation.

Another way to conserve the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is through ecotourism. Visitors to the rainforests can learn about the importance of conservation by engaging with local conservation groups, used responsible guides and supporting local conservation efforts associated with plant and animal management.

These activities can help generate revenue that can be used towards conservation of the species through funding environmental research, monitoring, habitat restoration projects, and other conservation initiatives. In conclusion, the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is an important part of the forest ecosystem, which has been negatively impacted by the loss of habitat due to human activities.

The species is relatively sedentary but has sub-populations with different genetic makeup.

Conservation efforts must focus on halting habitat destruction and reduction of all human actions that impact this species.

The conservation activities must include eco-tourism, education, and protected areas to ensure the protection of the species, and maintain biodiversity in the areas where it is found.

Diet and Foraging


The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a bird that primarily feeds on insects, including beetles, grasshoppers, and mantises. It also feeds on arachnids, frogs, and small lizards.

The bird is known to hunt its prey by perching on a tree branch or vine, watching for movements on the ground or above the canopy, before swiftly darting out to capture its prey in mid-air or in the foliage. The species uses its sharp and slender bill to catch its prey, delivering a sharp blow to stun or kill the prey before consuming it.


The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is known to feed on terrestrial insects and halteres, which are wing-like structures found in some insects that help them with balance and maneuverability. Being a visually orientated predator, the species feeds on insects using a sit-and-wait hunting method that requires increasing amounts of resting lead to the capture of its prey.

The diet of the bird can vary depending on the season, the variation of available food in the habitat, and the geographical location.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher has a high metabolism, which is essential for maintaining its body temperature, particularly when it is low during the night or in cooler temperatures. This bird has a unique metabolism that allows it to maintain an elevated body temperature even when the environmental temperature becomes cold.

This metabolic process is known as countercurrent exchange, which allows the bird to regulate its body temperature by exchanging heat between the arteries and veins in its legs. Through this process, warm arterial blood is cooled by venous blood, which is returning to the bird’s body from the legs.

This metabolic process is used by various bird species, especially those inhabiting areas with variable temperatures.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is known for its beautiful and distinctive vocalizations. The vocalizations of the species are used for a variety of purposes, including advertising for mates, warning calls, and territorial defense.

Both males and females produce a variety of vocalizations, including a series of rapid, high-pitched calls followed by a descending trill and a longer, drawn-out call. Males produce vocalizations to establish and defend their territory during the breeding season.

They call from a high perch, and their calls can be heard over several hundred meters in the dense rainforests. During the breeding season, the males perform elaborate display flights as part of their territorial defense or courtship behaviors.

During these displays, the male will fly in slow, rhythmic patterns while producing a variety of calls and vocalizations. Females also produce vocalizations, but their calls tend to be less frequently heard throughout the forest due to their sedentary behavior.

They call to advertise their presence while remaining within the safety of the dense forest canopy or during courtship displays. In conclusion, the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a fascinating bird species that is primarily insectivorous, feeding on a range of insects and other prey using a sit-and-wait hunting method.

The species has a unique metabolic process that allows it to maintain a constant body temperature, even in cooler temperatures. The bird’s vocalizations are distinctive and are used for advertising for mates, territorial defense, and warning calls.

Conservation efforts must focus on maintaining the bird’s habitat, particularly in the face of habitat destruction caused by human activities, to ensure the continued survival of the species.



The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher typically flies in a fast and direct manner. It has short and rounded wings, which enable it to fly with great maneuverability, making it ideal for its arboreal and somewhat acrobatic lifestyle.

The bird has strong legs which are used for perching on trees and branches and helping it to balance while foraging for food. The birds bill is elongated and slender, which is useful for grabbing its prey and perching on branches.


The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a highly territorial bird species, which is essential for its self-defense and self-maintenance. It is known to use a variety of behaviors to maintain its feathers and keep them free of parasites.

The bird will often preen its feathers and remove any parasites, such as lice or ticks, using its bill. Additionally, the bird will take dust baths or bathe in water to maintain its feathers for flight.

Agonistic Behavior

The Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is highly territorial and will defend its territory from intruders of the same or different species. When defending their territory, the bird will perch on a branch, fan out its tail, and repeatedly call out to warn off competitors.

The bird will also engage in aggressive behavior, such as flying towards the intruder or making physical contact if necessary.

Sexual Behavior

During the breeding season, male Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfishers will perform elaborate aerial displays to attract females. The displays involve slow and rhythmic movements, as well as vocalizations that entice the female to join him.

Once a female has chosen a mate, the pair will settle down and construct their nest. The female will lay a clutch of 2-3 eggs, which the pair will incubate for around two weeks.

After hatching, the chicks are fed with insects and other small prey items that the adult birds catch.


The breeding season of the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher varies throughout its range. In some areas, such as the northeast region of New Guinea, the breeding season occurs between August and December.

In other regions, such as the southeast region of New Guinea, breeding takes place between February and June. During the breeding season, males establish territories and perform elaborate aerial displays to attract mates.

Once the female has selected her mate, the pair builds a nest, typically a natural cavity in a tree, which they use to raise their young.

Demography and Populations

The population of the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher has been declining in recent years due to habitat destruction and loss of natural predators. The bird is classified as “Near-threatened” by the IUCN, and many conservation organizations and local governments are working to protect the species.

Conservation efforts include the creation of protected areas and national parks, such as the Fojeba Natural Reserve and the Cordillera Central range in Papua New Guinea. There is also an awareness and education campaign aimed at local communities around the areas of its habitat, making them aware of the bird’s importance and the need to protect its habitat.

In conclusion, the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is a fascinating bird species with unique behaviors and a great importance to the rainforest ecosystem. It is highly territorial and performs elaborate aerial displays as part of its sexual behavior.

The breeding season varies depending on the location of its habitat, but the species typically builds a nest where its chicks are raised. Its population has been declining in recent years, but conservation efforts are being made to protect the species, including creating protected areas and educating local populations.

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