An American pygmy kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea) rests on a vine in a flooded forest in the Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica. At just five inches long and 50 times less heavy than an adult frilly, this kingfisher is a tiny and astute predator in mangroves and streams. It hunts insects, fish, amphibians, crustaceans, and other invertebrates by ambushing them from perches, sometimes diving into the water headfirst. This species is distributed widely in tropical lowland rainforests from the Amazon Basin in Brazil and Bolivia through Central America to southern Mexico.
Kingfishers are in the family Alcedinidae, which also includes the Kookaburras (Dacelo spp.). I hadn’t fully realized this until arriving in Australia, and the strikingly similarities in morphology and behavior really emphasize their relatedness. The laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is the heaviest in the family, weighing up to half of a kilogram. Their territorial call is highly popularized and has been featured in movie scenes of jungle settings, including the original Tarzan.