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Alcedinidae
翠鳥科
cuì-niǎo kē

翠鸟科
cuì-niǎo kē

カワセミ科
kawa-semi ka

물총새과
mul-chong-sae-gwa

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General

Information is from dictionaries and other sources. Comments and corrections welcome. Hover over Green Lettering Green lettering at this site hides a tool tip with glosses, further explanations, etc. Hover cursor to reveal. to see additional information.

The kingfishers were traditionally identified by the Chinese as a single group, as seen in the Compendium of Materia Medica (本草綱目 běncǎo gāngmù) of the late Ming (first draft 1578), which places all kingfisher names under the heading 魚狗 yúgǒu 'fish dog'. The entry points out that there are both blue and speckled (or pied) white varieties of kingfisher. The assignment of names among the three kingfisher groups (halcyonid, alcedinid, and cerylid) is thus a modern development.

Chinese traditional names for the kingfishers can be grouped into three general types:

1. The distinctive ancient name of (or 鴗鳥 lì-niǎo 'li bird'), found in the Erya (尔雅 ěryǎ) of the 3rd century AD. This name is largely obsolete, although some attempts have been made to revive it for ornithological usage (see Other Names column in the tables).

2. Names relating to the plumage of the halcyonid and alcedinid kingfishers.

The ancient name 翡翠 fěicuì (sometimes also seen in the form 翡翠鳥 fěicuì-niǎo) refers to the iridescent blue and red feathers of the kingfishers, which were in the past prized for decoration and adornment. The name 翡翠 fěicuì is made up of two parts: fěi referring to red feathers and cuì referring to blue feathers. The supply of feathers to the Chinese court was a result of trade (including international trade), and ancient sources are confused over the type or types of bird that supplied the feathers. The iridescent blue feathers became predominant and the technique of cutting and gluing the blue feathers in traditional ornamentation was known as 點翠 diǎn-cuì 'dotting with kingfishers'.

The name 翡翠 fěicuì was later extended to 'jadeite', a favourite precious stone of the Chinese, which in the imported Burmese variety came in green and red colours. As a result, 翡翠 fěicuì is now usually identified in Chinese with the precious stone rather than the bird.

While 翡翠 fěicuì is an ancient and elegant name, the most popular kingfisher name is now 翠鳥 cuì-niǎo, which means 'bluefeathered bird' (featuring the cuì from 翡翠 fěicuì). This is the usual name of the widespread Common or River Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis).

Chinese has a number of similar kingfisher names indicating colours, including 翠雀兒 cuì-qiǎor 'bluefeather sparrow', 赤羽雀 chì-yǔ què (literally 'red-feathered sparrow'), and 翠碧鳥 cuìbì-niǎo 'bluefeather blue bird'.

3. Finally, Chinese has a group of names which pay tribute to the birds' prowess at catching fish. These include 魚狗 yúgǒu 'fish dog', 天狗 tiān-gǒu 'heaven dog', 水狗 shuǐ-gǒu 'water dog', 魚虎 yúhǔ 'fish tiger' and 魚師 yúshī 'fish master'. According to the Compendium of Materia Medica, birds bearing the name 魚狗 yúgǒu 'fish dog' were slightly smaller than those bearing the name 翡翠 fěicuì 'blue&red-feather'.

The last two sets of names were the usual names for kingfishers in early modern China. In order to fit modern ornithological naming, some adjustment was required.

Ornithological naming

With the split between the halcyonid, alcedinid, and cerylid subfamilies in modern times (culminating in a tendency to split them into three separate families), Chinese ornithologists were forced to come up with a way of distinguishing the three types in their naming.

For the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), ornithologists deferred to the well-established popular name 翠鳥 cuì-niǎo 'bluefeathered bird', furthermore extending the name to all of the alcedinid kingfishers.

For the other groups, the Halcyoninae and Cerylinae, the Taiwanese names use the name 翡翠 fěicuì. In this Taiwanese usage differs from the Mainland, where the Cerylidae are given the separate name 魚狗 yúgǒu 'fish dog'.

Glossing

With their multilayered history, the meanings of names like 翡翠 and 翠鳥 are difficult to capture with a simple gloss. For example, 翡翠 can be understood as meaning:

1. 'red&blue-feather' (based on the earliest etymological explanations). The structure of the Chinese characters and also suggest this feathered connection since both include the radical meaning 'feather').

2. As a totality, the name also meant 'kingfisher'.

3. The normal meaning of 翡翠 fěicuì in modern Chinese is 'jadeite', a derived meaning that has almost completely obscured the original avian meaning.

4. The modern ornithologically restricted meaning in Taiwan is 'halcyonid or cerylid kingfisher'.

Similarly, 翠鳥 can be understood as:

1. 'blue-feathered bird', based on the original meaning of .

2. 'kingfisher bird' based on the intent of the name (i.e., 'bluefeather' interpreted as intended to mean 'kingfisher'.)

3. The modern ornithologically restricted meaning of 'alcedinid kingfisher'.

Species names

› ABOUT THIS TABLE‹
ALCEDININAE
SCIENTIFIC & ENGLISH
CHINESE
JAPANESE
OTHER
Ceyx
Latin
English
Chinese (Taiwan)
Chinese (Mainland)
Other Ch
Japanese
Other J
Korean
Vietnamese
Ceyx erithaca
Ceyx erithacus
link to photo
Oriental dwarf kingfisher
Three-toed kingfisher
(三趾翠鸟)
三趾翠鳥
sān-zhǐ cuì-niǎo
'three-toed kingfisher-bird'
三趾翠鸟
(三趾翠鳥)
sān-zhǐ cuì-niǎo
'three-toed kingfisher-bird'
(小黄鱼狗)
小黃魚狗
xiǎo huáng yú-gǒu
'small yellow fish-dog' (FS)
ミツユビカワセミ
(三つ趾翡翠 ~ 三つ趾川蝉)
mitsu-yubi kawa-semi
'three-toed river kingfisher₁'
    Ceyx erithacus:
Chim Bồng chanh đỏ
'red bồng chanh bird' (12, 34)
Alcedo
Latin
English
Chinese (Taiwan)
Chinese (Mainland)
Other Ch
Japanese
Other J
Korean
Vietnamese
Alcedo atthis
link to photolink to photolink to photo
Common kingfisher
River kingfisher
(翠鸟)
翠鳥
cuì-niǎo
'kingfisher-bird'
普通翠鸟
(普通翠鳥)
pǔtōng cuì-niǎo
'common kingfisher-bird'
(翡翠)
翡翠
fěicuì
'kingfisher'
(小翠鱼狗)
小翠魚狗
xiǎo cuì yú-gǒu
'small kingfisher fish-dog' (FS)
(小翠鸟)
小翠鳥
xiǎo cuì-niǎo
'small kingfisher-bird'
(翠鸟)
翠鳥
cuì-niǎo
'kingfisher-bird' (FS)
(翠鸟儿)
翠鳥兒
cuì-niǎor
'kingfisher-bird' (31)
(鱼狗)
魚狗
yú-gǒu
'fish-dog' (FS)
(小鱼狗)
小魚狗
xiǎo yú-gǒu
'small fish-dog'
(天狗)
天狗
tiān-gǒu
'heaven dog' (FS)
(水狗)
水狗
shuǐ-gǒu
'water dog' (FS)
(水雀)
水雀
shuǐ-qiǎo
'water sparrow' (FS)
(翠雀儿)
翠雀兒
cuì-qiǎor
'kingfisher sparrow' (northern) (FS)
(钓鱼郎)
釣魚郎
diào-yú-láng
'fisherman' (FS)
(打鱼郎)
打魚郎
dǎ-yú-láng
'fisherman' (FS)
(金鸟仔)
金鳥仔
jīn niǎo zǎi
'golden bird' (southern) (FS)
(鱼虎)
魚虎
yú-hǔ
'fish tiger' (Materia Medica) (FS)
()


'kingfisher' (literary) (FS)
()


'kingfisher' (old)
(翠碧鸟)
翠碧鳥
cuìbì-niǎo
'kingfisher blue bird'
(鱼师)
魚師
yú-shī
'fisher'
(翠奴)
翠奴
cuì-nǔ
'kingfisher fellow'
(信天缘)
信天緣
xìn-tiān-yuán
'believe heaven fate' (also used for albatross)
(青翰)
青翰
qīng-hàn
'green/blue feathers'
(青庄)
青庄
qīng-zhuāng
'green/blue fields'
(青羽雀)
青羽雀
qīng yǔ què
'green/blue-feathered sparrow'
(衔鱼翠鸟)
銜魚翠鳥
xián-yú cuì-niǎo
'hold fish kingfisher-bird'
カワセミ
(翡翠 ~ 川蝉 ~ 魚狗)
kawa-semi
'river kingfisher₁'
ヒスイ
(翡翠)
hisui
'kingfisher', from Chinese fěicuì; also means 'jadeite'
ショウビン
(翡翠)
shōbin
'kingfisher₂'
ソニドリ
()
soni-dori
'soni bird' (old name, used as a poetic qualifier for 'blue')
ソニ
()
soni
'soni' (old name)
물총새
mul-chong-sae
'water chong bird'
Chim Bồng chanh
'bồng chanh bird' (12, 13, 34)
 
CERYLINAE
SCIENTIFIC & ENGLISH
CHINESE
JAPANESE
OTHER
Ceryle
Latin
English
Chinese (Taiwan)
Chinese (Mainland)
Other Ch
Japanese
Other J
Korean
Vietnamese
Ceryle rudis
link to photolink to photo
Pied kingfisher
Lesser pied kingfisher
(斑翡翠)
斑翡翠
bān fěicuì
'striped kingfisher'
斑鱼狗
(斑魚狗)
bān yú-gǒu
'striped fish-dog'
(小啄鱼)
小啄魚
xiǎo zhuó-yú
'small fish-pecker' (FS)
(小花鱼狗)
小花魚狗
xiǎo huā yú-gǒu
'small flowery fish-dog'
(花斑钓鱼郎)
花斑釣魚郎
huā bān diào-yú-láng
'flowery striped fisherman' (FS)
ヒメヤマセミ
(姫山翡翠 ~ 姫山魚狗)
hime yama-semi
'princess mountain kingfisher₁'
    Chim Bói cá nhỏ
'small bói cá bird' ( = 'fish') (12, 13, 34)
 
HALCYONINAE
SCIENTIFIC & ENGLISH
CHINESE
JAPANESE
OTHER
Halcyon
Latin
English
Chinese (Taiwan)
Chinese (Mainland)
Other Ch
Japanese
Other J
Korean
Vietnamese
Halcyon coromanda
link to photolink to photo
Ruddy kingfisher (赤翡翠)
赤翡翠
chì fěicuì
'red kingfisher
赤翡翠
(赤翡翠)
chì fěicuì
'red kingfisher'
  アカショウビン
(赤翡翠)
aka shōbin
'red kingfisher₂'
ミズコイドリ
(水恋鳥)
mizu-koi-dori
'water-loving bird'
ミヤマショウビン
(深山翡翠)
miyama shōbin
'deep mountain kingfisher₂'
호반새
hoban-sae
'lakeside (?) bird'
Chim Sả hung
'reddish halcyon bird' (12, 13, 34)
Halcyon smyrnensis
link to photolink to photo
White-throated kingfisher
White-breasted kingfisher
(苍翡翠)
蒼翡翠
cāng fěicuì
'darkblue kingfisher'
白胸翡翠
(白胸翡翠)
bái-xiōng fěicuì
'white-breasted kingfisher'
(鱼狗)
魚狗
yú-gǒu
'fish-dog' (ornithologically used for Cerylid kingfishers)
(白胸鱼狗)
白胸魚狗
bái-xiōng yú-gǒu
'white-breasted fish-dog' (FS)
(鱼虎)
魚虎
yú-hǔ
'fish tiger' (FS)
(翠毛鸟)
翠毛鳥
cuì-máo-niǎo
'kingfisher feather bird' (FS)
(翠碧鸟)
翠碧鳥
cuì-bì-niǎo
'kingfisher-blue-bird' (FS)
(苍翡鸟)
蒼翡鳥
cāng-fěi-niǎo
'fly-kingfisher-bird' (FS)
アオショウビン
(青翡翠)
ao shōbin
'blue/green kingfisher₂'
    Chim Sả đầu nâu
'brown-headed halcyon bird' (12, 13, 34)
Halcyon pileata
link to photo
Black-capped kingfisher (黑头翡翠)
黑頭翡翠
hēi-tóu fěicuì
'black-headed kingfisher'
蓝翡翠
(藍翡翠)
lán fěicuì
'blue kingfisher'
(蓝翠鸟)
藍翠鳥
lán cuì-niǎo
'blue kingfisher-bird'
(蓝鱼狗)
藍魚狗
lán yú-gǒu
'blue fish-dog' (FS)
(蓝翠毛)
藍翠毛
lán cuì-máo
'blue kingfisher feather' (FS)
(喜鹊翠)
喜鵲翠
xǐquè-cuì
'magpie kingfisher' (northern) (FS)
(黑顶鱼狗)
黑頂魚狗
hēi-dǐng yú-gǒu
'black-topped fish-dog' (FS)
(黑帽鱼狗)
黑帽魚狗
hēi-mào yú-gǒu
'black-capped fish-dog' (FS)
(秦椒鸟)
秦椒鳥
qín-jiāo-niǎo
'Qin pepper bird' (FS)
(山鴗)
山鴗
shān-lì
'mountain kingfisher'
(山翊)
山翊
shān-yì
'mountain kingfisher' (FS)
ヤマショウビン
(山翡翠)
yama shōbin
'mountain kingfisher₂'
  청호반새
cheong-hoban-sae
'blue lakeside-bird'
Chim Sả đầu đen
'black-headed halcyon bird' (12, 13, 34)
Todiramphus
Latin
English
Chinese (Taiwan)
Chinese (Mainland)
Other Ch
Japanese
Other J
Korean
Vietnamese
Todiramphus chloris
Todirhamphus chloris
Halcyon chloris
link to photolink to photo
Collared kingfisher
White-collared kingfisher
(白领翡翠)
白領翡翠
bái-lǐng fěicuì
'white-collared kingfisher'
白领翡翠
(白領翡翠)
bái-lǐng fěicuì
'white-collared kingfisher'
(白领翠鸟)
白領翠鳥
bái-lǐng cuì-niǎo
'white-collared kingfisher-bird'
ナンヨウショウビン
(南洋翡翠)
nan'yō shōbin
'south seas kingfisher₂'
    Halcyon chloris (12):
Chim Sả khoang cổ
'streak-necked halcyon bird' (12, 13)

According to one of China's earliest dictionaries, the 說文解字 Shuōwén jiězì from the Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 220), 翡翠 fěicuì combines the names of two birds: fěi or 赤羽雀 chì-yǔ què (literally 'red-feathered sparrow'), a type of red-feathered bird, and cuì or 青羽雀 qīng-yǔ què (literally 'green/blue-feathered sparrow'), a type of blue-feathered bird. On the other hand, the Compendium of Materia Medica offers the explanation that the colour is sexually determined, with the male mostly red and the female blue. However, the Compendium also gives the alternative explanation that the front of the bird is red and the back blue.

翡翠 fěicuì is an ancient name signifying 'red feathers' () + 'blue feathers' (), for which certain kingfishers were prized. In modern times Chinese ornithologists have for mostly restricted the name 翡翠 fěicuì to the halcyonid kingfishers, although Taiwan still uses it for a cerylid kingfisher.

翠鸟 cuì-niǎo, literally 'bluefeather-bird', using the second character in 翡翠 fěicuì, is a long-standing general kingfisher name most closely associated with the widespread Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. As a modern ornithological name it is also extended to other members of the genus Alcedo.

ショウビン shōbin is used ornithologically for the halcyonid kingfishers. All Japanese kingfisher names can be written 翡翠, a Chinese name for the kingfishers. In addition to ショウビン shōbin, 翡翠 can be read as カワセミ kawa-semi, ヒスイ hisui, and セミ semi (in the name ヤマセミ yama-semi only), all meaning 'kingfisher'. (To distinguish the names here, ショウビン shōbin is called 'kingfisher₂'. セミ semi is 'kingfisher₁'.)

カワセミ kawa-semi, literally 'river kingfisher', is used ornithologically for the alcedinid kingfishers. Traditionally written in at least three ways:
1. 翡翠, a Chinese name for the kingfishers, which may also be read as ショウビン shōbin, ヒスイ hisui, or (in ヤマセミ yama-semi 'mountain kingfisher') as セミ semi, all meaning 'kingfisher'. 2. 川蝉, literally 'river cicada', using the character for the homonymous word meaning 'cicada' (セミ semi). 3. 魚狗 'fish-dog', another Chinese name for the kingfishers. 1. and 3. both use a Chinese name as a whole to write カワセミ kawasemi. Neither thus contains an individual character representing 'river' (カワ kawa).
(To distinguish the names here, セミ semi is called 'kingfisher₁' and ショウビン shōbin is 'kingfisher₂')

ヤマセミ yama-semi, made up of ヤマ yama 'mountain' plus セミ semi 'kingfisher', is used ornithologically for the cerylid kingfishers. Traditionally written either 1. 'mountain' + 翡翠 'kingfisher' (the latter a Chinese word meaning 'kingfisher'), or 2. 'mountain' + 魚狗 'fish-dog' (the latter being another Chinese word for 'kingfisher'.) 翡翠 is also used to write the kingfisher names カワセミ kawa-semi, ショウビン shōbin and ヒスイ hisui. 魚狗 is also used to write the name カワセミ kawa-semi.

中国鸟类种和亚种分类名录大全(修订版) 郑作新 著 科学出版社 北京 2000年
A Complete Checklist of Species and Subspecies of the Chinese Birds (Revised Edition) by Cheng Tso-Hsin, Science Press, Beijing 2000

中国鸟类分类与分布名录 主编:郑光美 科学出版社 北京 2005年
A Checklist on the Classification and Distribution of the Birds of China Chief editor: Zheng Guangmei, Science Press, Beijing 2005

中国鸟类野外手册(中文版)约翰・马敬能、卡伦・菲利普斯,合作者:荷芬奇,翻译:卢和芬 湖南教育出版社 长沙 2000年
A Field Guide to the Birds of China (Chinese translation) by John MacKinnon, Karen Phillipps, in collaboration with He Fen-qi, translated by Lu Hefen, Hunan Jiaoyu Chubanshe (Hunan Educational Press) Changsha 2000

世界鸟类分类与分布名录 主编:郑光美 科学出版社 北京 2002年
A Checklist on the Classification and Distribution of the Birds of the World Chief editor: Zheng Guangmei, Science Press, Beijing 2002

世界鸟类名称(拉丁文、汉文、英文对照)第二版 郑作新等 科学出版社 北京 2002年
Birds of the World (Latin, Chinese and English Names) 2nd ed. by Cheng Tso-Hsin et al, Science Press, Beijing 2002

中国鸟类分布名录 第二版 郑作新 科学出版社 北京 1976年
(Checklist of the Classification of Birds of China 2nd edition by Cheng Tso-Hsin, Science Press, Beijing 1976)

香港及華南鳥類(第六版)(翻譯成中文及重新修訂) 尹璉、費嘉倫、林超英 香港性徵特區政府新聞處政府印務局 1994年
Birds of Hong Kong and South China (6th edition, translated into Chinese and newly revised) by Clive Viney, Karen Phillipps, Lin Chaoying, Hong Kong Govt. Press 1994

Danh Lục Chim Việt Nam (In lần thứ hai) (Checklist of the Birds of Vietnam) Võ Quý, Nguyễn Cử, Nhà Xuất Bản Nông Nghiệp, Hà Nội 1999

Chim Việt Nam Nguyễn Cử, Lê Trọng Trải, Karen Phillipps; Nhà Xuất Bản Lao Động - Xã Hội, 2000

汉蒙名词术语分类词典(自然科学部分) Mongolian (Cyrillic): Хятад Монгол нэр томъёоны зүйл хуваасан толь (байгалийн шинжлэх ухааны бүлэг) (Chinese-Mongolian classified terminological dictionary, natural sciences part) by 《汉蒙名词术语分类词典》编纂委员会 Mongolian (Cyrillic): "Хятад Монгол нэр томъёоны зүйл хуваасан толь" найруулах комисс (Chinese-Mongolian classified terminological dictionary editorial committee), Inner Mongolian People's Press, Hohhot 1990

Danh Lục Các Loài Chim ở Việt Nam (Latinh, Việt, Pháp, Hán) Trần Văn Chánh 2008-2009