Speckled black and white plumage diagnostic; black nuchal crest; double black gorget across breast in male. The female differs in having a single, broken breast gorget. Solitary, in pairs or in small groups; always around water, perched on poles, tree stumps or rocks; hovers when hunting, bill pointed down as wings beat rapidly; dives fast, headlong on sighting fish; batters catch on perch; calls in flight. The Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris of Himalayan streams and rivers can be identified by larger size (41cm), larger crest and white nuchal collar.
Sexes alike. Bright blue above, greenish on wings; top of head finely banded black and blue; ferruginous cheeks, ear-coverts and white patch on sides of neck; white chin and throat and deep ferruginous underbody distinctive; coral-red legs and blackish beak. Solitary or in scattered pairs; never found away from water; perches on pole or overhanging branch; flies low over water, a brilliant blue streak, uttering its shrill notes; sometimes tame and confiding; dives for fish from perch; occasionally hovers over water before diving.
Sexes alike. Chestnut-brown head, neck and underbody below breast; bright turquoise-blue above, often with greenish tinge; black flight feathers and white wing-patch in flight; white chin, throat and breast distinctive; coral-red beak and legs. Solitary or scattered pairs atop overhead wires, poles and tree-tops;
frequently found far from water; drops on to ground to pick up prey.