The sacred kingfisher hunts by sitting on a suitable vantage point from which it can survey the surrounding area for prey, often bobbing its head or flicking its tail as it waits (3) (5). When prey is spotted, the kingfisher swoops down to take it from the ground before returning to its perch to consume it (3) (4) (5) (8). Although it usually briefly lands on the ground to take prey, the sacred kingfisher may also snatch it without landing, sometimes after a brief hover. It will also take prey from foliage or in the air, as well as from water (3) (5).
The diet of the sacred kingfisher is quite varied, and includes a wide range of insects and other invertebrates, such as spiders, centipedes, worms and crustaceans. It also preys on small vertebrates, including fish, tadpoles and frogs, lizards, snakes, birds and mice (3) (4) (5).
The sacred kingfisher is usually seen alone or in a breeding pair (4) (5) (8) and can be quite territorial, often calling and aggressively chasing away intruders, including other bird species (3) (5). This species is monogamous, and it is thought that breeding pairs return to the same breeding and non-breeding territories year after year (3) (5).
The breeding season of the sacred kingfisher usually occurs between September and January or March, with the exact timing depending on the location (3) (5). This species usually nests in a tree hollow or in a tunnel excavated in a bank, cliff or even a termite mound (3) (4) (5) (8), with the preferred sites appearing to vary between different regions (3) (5). Both sexes help excavate the nesting tunnel, which can measure up to 30 centimetres long and ends in a chamber about 20 centimetres across (3) (5). Sometimes several holes are excavated before one is chosen (3).
The female sacred kingfisher lays a clutch of 3 to 7 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for around 16 to 21 days (3). Both adults also help to feed the young birds (3) (4), which leave the nest at about 24 to 29 days old (3) (5). The young sacred kingfishers are fed by the adults for a further seven to ten days after leaving the nest, and the adults commonly go on to produce a second brood in the same season (3) (4) (5). In some parts of its range, the sacred kingfisher may not breed during drought years (3).
The oldest known sacred kingfisher lived to about eight years old (3).