Bulletin 13 - March 1981: A New Subspecies of Kingfisher

A New Subspecies of Kingfisher

by Graham S. Cowles

(The White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris abyssinica was first reported from Arabia in 1973, based on a specimen collected at Khor Kalba in 1962. In 1971 Graham Cowles of the British Museum, Natural History, Tring, Herts., collected two specimens of a similar kingfisher in the mangrove swamps in the same locality. Subsequent analysis attributes these to a subspecies -Ed.)

Halcyon chloris kalbaensis

Description: Similar to H.c. abyssinica but differs in having a well-defined white superciliary stripe extending from the sides of the forehead to above and past the eye. Above the ear coverts the white superciliary is suffused with blue-tipped feathers, giving a streaked area of light blue-green and white. Bill smaller than abyssinica. The upper tail coverts and rump are more blue-green.

Range: Apparently confined to the coastal mangrove swamps at Khawr kalba. The nearest population of H. chloris is the race abyssinica, about 1900km across Arabia to the southwest, on the western coast of the Red Sea, and H.c. vidali in the opposite direction, about 2000km to the southeast, across the Arabian Sea in the Ratnagiri district, south of Bombay, India.

The species H. chloris is distributed over a wide geographical area and about 49 subspecies are at present recognized. It extends from the Red Sea coast (abyssinica) at the western extremity of its range, to Samoa which is the extreme eastern limit. H.c. abyssinica and H.c. kalbaensis can be distinguished from all other subspecies by clearly defined differences. Other races show differences in size and overall plumage coloration. This strongly suggests that the affinities of kalbaensis lie closer to the west, abyssinica, than to vidali, or other subspecies from the eastern part of the H. chloris range.


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