White-throated kingfisher

The white-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) also known as the white-breasted kingfisher is a tree kingfisher, widely distributed in Asia from the Sinai east through the Indian subcontinent to the Philippines. This kingfisher is a resident over much of its range, although some populations may make short distance movements. It can often be found well away from water where it feeds on a wide range of prey that includes small reptiles, amphibians, crabs, small rodents and even birds. During the breeding season they call loudly in the mornings from prominent perches including the tops of buildings in urban areas or on wires.



The white-throated kingfisher is one of the many birds that were first formally described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae. He coined the binomial name Alcedo smyrnensis.[2][3] Linnaeus cites Eleazar Albin's Natural History of Birds published in 1738 which includes a description and a plate of the "Smirna Kingfisher".[4] The present genus Halcyon was introduced by the English naturalist and artist William John Swainson in 1821.[5] Halcyon is a name for a bird in Greek mythology generally associated with the kingfisher. The specific epithet smyrnensis is an adjective for the town of Izmir in Turkey.[6]

Six subspecies are recognised:[7]

  • H. s. smyrnensis (Linnaeus, 1758) – south Turkey to north east Egypt, Iraq to northwest India
  • H. s. fusca (Boddaert, 1783) – west India and Sri Lanka
  • H. s. perpulchra Madarász, 1904 – Bhutan to east India, Indochina, the Malay Peninsular and west Java
  • H. s. saturatior Hume, 1874 – Andaman Islands
  • H. s. fokiensis Laubmann & Götz, 1926 – south and east China, Taiwan and Hainan
  • H. s. gularis (Kuhl, 1820) – Philippines

The race H. s. gularis is sometimes considered as a separate species.[8] Support for this treatment was provided by a molecular study published in 2017 that found that H. s. gularis was more closely related to the Javan kingfisher (H. cyanoventris) than it was to the white-throated kingfisher.[9] The races H. s. perpulchra and H. s. fokiensis are sometimes included in H. s. fusca.[10]

Local names include Baluchistan: aspi chidok; Sindhi: dalel; Hindi: kilkila, kourilla; Himachal Pradesh: neela machhrala; Punjabi: wadda machhera; Bengali: sandabuk machhranga; Assamese: masroka; Cachar: dao natu gophu; Gujarati: kalkaliyo, safedchati kalkaliyo; Marathi: khundya; Tamil: vichuli; Telugu: lakmuka, buchegadu; Malayalam: ponman; Kannada: rajamatsi; Sinhalese: pilihuduwa.[11]


This is a large kingfisher, 27–28 cm (10.6–11.0 in) in length. The adult has a bright blue back, wings and tail. Its head, shoulders, flanks and lower belly are chestnut, and the throat and breast are white. The large bill and legs are bright red. The flight of the white-throated kingfisher is rapid and direct, the short rounded wings whirring. In flight, large white patches are visible on the blue and black wings. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are a duller version of the adult.[12]

This species forms a superspecies with Halcyon cyanoventris and most major works recognize four geographic races. They vary clinally in size, the shades of blue on the mantle which is more greenish in smyrnensis and fusca and more blue or purplish in saturatior. H. s. gularis of the Philippines has only the neck and throat white. It is sometimes treated as a distinct species, H. gularis. Race fusca is found in Peninsular India and Sri Lanka and is slightly smaller, bluer and with a darker brown underside than the nominate race found in northwestern India. Race saturatior is found in the Andaman Islands and is larger with darker brown underparts. Race perpulchra (not always recognized) is found in northeastern India and is smaller than fusca with paler underparts.[13] Albinism has been noted on occasion.[14]

The English of white-throated was introduced since the range is large and geographic adjectives would make the name too restrictive, while the older name of white-breasted would not describe the eastern race which has only the throat white.

The call of this kingfisher is a chuckling chake-ake-ake-ake-ake. They are particularly noisy in the breeding season.

Habitat and distribution

White-throated kingfisher is a common species of a variety of habitats, mostly open country in the plains (but has been seen at 7500 ft in the Himalayas[15]) with trees, wires or other perches. The range of the species is expanding.

This kingfisher is widespread and populations are not threatened. Average density of 4.58 individuals per km2. has been noted in the Sundarbans mangroves.[16]

Behaviour and ecology

Feeding and diet

White-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis fusca) composite

H. s. fusca with a fish

White Throated Kingfisher, Kabini

with Praying Mantis

White-throated Kingfisher Baranagar Kolkata West Bengal India 24.04.2014

H. s. fusca with a skink

It perches conspicuously on wires or other exposed perches within its territory, and is a frequent sight in south Asia. This species mainly hunts large crustaceans,[17] insects, earthworms,[18] rodents, snakes, fish and frogs.[19][20] Predation of small birds such as the Indian white-eye, chick of a red-wattled lapwing, sparrows and munias have been reported.[21][22][23] The young are fed mostly on invertebrates.[24] In captivity, it has been noted that it rarely drinks water although bathing regularly.[25]


The white-throated kingfisher begins breeding at the onset of the Monsoons. Males perch on prominent high posts in their territory and call in the early morning. The tail may be flicked now and in its courtship display the wings are stiffly flicked open for a second or two exposing the white wing mirrors. They also raise their bill high and display the white throat and front. The female in invitation makes a rapid and prolonged kit-kit-kit... call. The nest is a tunnel (50 cm long, but a nest with a 3-foot tunnel has been noted[26]) in an earth bank. The nest building begins with both birds flying into a suitable mud wall until an indentation is made where they can find a perch hold. They subsequently perch and continue digging the nest with their bills. Nest tunnels in a haystack have also been recorded.[27] A single clutch of 4-7 round white eggs is typical. The eggs take 20–22 days to hatch while the chicks fledge in 19 days.[21][28][29]


Birds have sometimes been seen attracted to lights at night, especially during the monsoon season, suggesting that they are partly migratory.[21]


With a powerful bill and rapid flight, these kingfishers have few predators when healthy and rare cases of predation by a black kite[30] and a jungle crow may be of sick or injured birds.[31] An individual found dead with its beak embedded into the wood of a tree has been suggested as an accident during rapid pursuit of prey, possibly an Indian white-eye.[23] A few parasites have been noted.[32]

In the 1800s these birds were hunted for their bright feathers that were used to adorn hats.[33] It is the State bird of West Bengal.[34]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Halcyon smyrnensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturæ per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Volume 1 (in Latin) (10th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 116.
  3. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1945). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 5. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 196.
  4. ^ Albin, Eleazar; Derham, William (1738). A natural history of birds : illustrated with a hundred and one copper plates, curiously engraven from the life. Volume 3. London: Printed for the author and sold by William Innys. p. 26, Plate 27.
  5. ^ Swainson, William John (1821). Zoological illustrations. Volume 1. London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; and W. Wood. Plate 27 text.
  6. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 185, 358. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  7. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Rollers, ground rollers & kingfishers". World Bird List Version 7.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  8. ^ del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N.; Kirwan, G.M. (2017). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon gularis)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  9. ^ Andersen, M.J.; McCullough, J.M.; Mauck III, W.M.; Smith, B.T.; Moyle, R.G. (2017). "A phylogeny of kingfishers reveals an Indomalayan origin and elevated rates of diversification on oceanic islands". Journal of Biogeography: 1–13. doi:10.1111/jbi.13139.
  10. ^ Woodall, P.F.; Kirwan, G.M. (2017). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  11. ^ Anonymous (1998). "Vernacular Names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent" (PDF). Buceros. 3 (1): 53–109.
  12. ^ Fry, C. Hilary; Fry, Kathie; Harris, Alan (1992). Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Rollers. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 143–145. ISBN 978-0-7136-8028-7.
  13. ^ Rasmussen, PC & JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions.
  14. ^ Gunawardana, Jagath (1993). "Description of an albino White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)". Ceylon Bird Club Notes (June): 56–57.
  15. ^ Khacher, Lavkumar J (1970). "Notes on the White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosa) and Whitebreasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 67 (2): 333.
  16. ^ Reza AHMA; MM Feeroz; MA Islam & MMKabir (2003). "Status and density of kingfishers (family: Alcedinidae, Halcyonidae and Cerylidae) in the Sundarbans mangrove forest, Bangladesh" (PDF). Bangladesh J. Life Sci. 15 (1): 55–60.
  17. ^ Tehsin, Raza (1995). "Crab-eating by Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis (Linn.)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 92 (1): 121.
  18. ^ Yahya, HSA; Yasmin, Shahla (1991). "Earthworms in the dietary of the Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis (Linn.)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 88 (3): 454.
  19. ^ Roberts, T J; Priddy, C (1965). "Food of the Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis (Linnaeus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 62 (1): 152–153.
  20. ^ Tehsin, Raza (1989). "Feeding behaviour of Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis (Linnaeus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 86 (3): 449.
  21. ^ a b c Ali, S & S Dillon Ripley (1983). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 4 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 90–93.
  22. ^ Sen, SN (1944). "Food of the White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis fusca)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 44 (3): 475.
  23. ^ a b Purandare, Kiran Vasant (2008). "Freak accidental death of a White-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis" (PDF). Indian Birds. 4 (1): 23.
  24. ^ Burton NHK (1998). "Notes on the diet of nestling White-throated Kingfishers Halcyon smyrnensis in Malaysia" (PDF). Forktail. 14: 79–80.
  25. ^ Harper, EW (1900–1901). "The White-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis in captivity". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 13 (2): 364–365.
  26. ^ Law, SC (1925). "Nesting habits of the Indian Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis fusca". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 30 (2): 477–478.
  27. ^ Balasubramanian, P (1992). "New nesting site of the Indian Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis fusca (Boddaert)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 89 (1): 124.
  28. ^ Palkar SB; Lovalekar RJ; Joshi VV (2009). "Breeding biology of White-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis" (PDF). Indian Birds. 4 (3): 104–105.
  29. ^ Hume, AO (1890). The nests and eggs of Indian birds. 3 (2nd ed.). R H Porter, London. pp. 15–19.
  30. ^ Narayanan, E (1989). "Pariah Kite Milvus migrans capturing Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 86 (3): 445.
  31. ^ Balasubramanian, P. (1990). "Behaviour of southern spotted owlet Athene brama brama (Temminck) and jungle crow (Temminck) and jungle crow Corvus macrorhynchos at Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 87 (1): 145.
  32. ^ Nandi AP; De NC; Majumdar G (1985). "Records of two new nematodes (Acuariidae) parasitizing kingfishers (Coraciiformes) of West Bengal India". Helminthologia. 22 (3): 161–170.
  33. ^ Lockwood, Edward (1878). Natural history, sport and travel. W H Allen and Co. pp. 185–186.
  34. ^ "Government of India webpage for National and State symbols".

Further reading

  • Cramp, Stanley, ed. (1985). "Halcyon smyrnensis White-breasted Kingfisher". Handbook of the birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume IV: Terns to Woodpeckers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 701–705. ISBN 0-19-857507-6.
  • Mohanty, Banalata (2006). "Extracellular Accumulations in the Avian Pituitary Gland: Histochemical Analysis in Two Species of Indian Wild Birds". Cells Tissues Organs. 183 (2): 99–106. doi:10.1159/000095514. PMID 17053326.
  • Oommen, M; Andrews, MI (1996). "Awakening, roosting and vocalization behaviour of the Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis fusca (Boddaert)". Pavo. 34 (1&2): 43–46.
  • Oommen, M; Andrews, MI (1993). "Breeding biology of the Whitebreasted Kingfisher, Halcyon smyrnensis". In Verghese, A; Sridhar, S; Chakravarthy, AK (eds.). Bird Conservation: Strategies for the Nineties and Beyond. Ornithological Society of India, Bangalore. pp. 177–180.
  • Oommen, M; Andrews, MI (1998) Food and feeding habits of the Whitebreasted Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis. Chap. 19. In: Birds in Agricultural Ecosystem. (Eds: Dhindsa, MS; Rao, P Syamsunder; Parasharya, BM) Society for Applied Ornithology, Hyderabad, 132-136.
  • Ticehurst, CB (1927). "Remarks on races of Halcyon smyrnensis and descriptions of two new subspecies - Zosterops palpebrosa occidentis and Z.P. nilgiriensis". Bull. Brit. Orn. Club. 47 (312): 87–90.

External links

Flat-billed kingfisher

The flat-billed kingfisher (Todiramphus recurvirostris) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae. It is endemic to Samoa.


Halasal is a village in Belgaum district in the southern state of Karnataka.

Halasal is a natural habitat for wildlife, including tigers, leopards, black panthers, elephants, gaur, deer, antelopes, and bears. Birds include the Indian spot-billed duck, pond heron, little egret, white-throated kingfisher, red-wattled lapwing, black-winged stilt, grey heron, eagle, bulbul, and wagtail. Some people visit Halasal to take part in jungle safaris.

Antarali Dagad or the "magic stone", a large stone resting on a small area, is a well-known tourist spot and popular for picnics.

Halcyon (genus)

Halcyon () is a genus of the tree kingfishers, near passerine birds in the subfamily Halcyoninae.

Islet kingfisher

The islet kingfisher (Todiramphus colonus) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae.

Kofiau paradise kingfisher

The Kofiau paradise kingfisher (Tanysiptera ellioti) is a tree kingfisher endemic to the Indonesian island Kofiau. This little-known bird is sometimes considered a subspecies of the common paradise kingfisher (T. galatea), but it is morphologically distinct and del Hoyo lists it as a separate species.

Lahugala Kitulana National Park

Lahugala Kitulana National Park (Sinhala: ලාහුගල-කිතුලාන ජාතික වනෝද්‍යානය) is one of the smallest national parks in Sri Lanka. Despite its land area, the park is an important habitat for Sri Lankan elephant and endemic birds of Sri Lanka. The national park contains the reservoirs of Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa and they are ultimately empties to Heda Oya river. Originally it was designated as a wildlife sanctuary on July 1 of 1966. Then the protected area was upgraded to a national park on October 31 of 1980. Lahugala Kitulana is situated 318 km east of Colombo.

Lazuli kingfisher

The lazuli kingfisher (Todiramphus lazuli) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae. It gets its name due to its colour being reminiscent of Lapis Lazuli.

List of birds of Islamabad

This is a list of birds found in Islamabad, Pakistan. Seventy-two species of birds have been found in this area. The best places to watch are Margalla Hills and Rawal Lake.

Little grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis

Little cormorant, Microcarbo niger

Great cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo

Black-crowned night heron, Nycticorax nycticorax

Indian pond heron (Paddybird), Ardeola grayii

Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis

Little egret, Egretta garzetta

Intermediate egret, Egretta intermedia

Grey heron, Ardea cinerea

Purple heron, Ardea purpurea

Common teal, Anas crecca

Black kite, Milvus migrans

Shikra, Accipiter badius

Long-legged buzzard, Buteo rufinus

Eurasian kestrel, Falco tinnunculus

Grey francolin, Francolinus pondicerianus

Common quail, Coturnix coturnix

Brown waterhen, Amaurornis akool

White-breasted waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus

Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus

Eurasian coot, Fulica atra

Red-wattled lapwing, Hoplopterus indicus

Common sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos

Black-headed gull, Larus ridibundus

Feral pigeon, Columba livia

Wood pigeon, Columba palumbus

Collared dove, Streptopelia decaocto

Palm dove, Spilopelia senegalensis

Spotted dove, Spilopelia chinensis

Rose-ringed parakeet, Psittacula krameri

Common koel, Eudynamys scolopacea

Greater coucal, Centropus sinensis

House swift, Apus affinis

White-throated kingfisher, Halcyon smyrnensis

Pied kingfisher, Ceryle rudis

Hoopoe, Upupa epops

Lesser golden-backed woodpecker, Dinopium benghalense

Brown-fronted woodpecker, Dendrocopos auriceps

Crested lark, Galerida cristata

Small skylark, Alauda gulgula

Brown-throated sand martin, Riparia paludicola

Pale sand martin, Riparia diluta

Barn swallow, Hirundo rustica

Red-rumped swallow, Hirundo daurica

Paddyfield pipit, Anthus rufulus

Grey wagtail, Motacilla cinerea

White wagtail, Motacilla alba

Large pied wagtail, Motacilla maderaspatensis

Himalayan bulbul, Pycnonotus leucogenys

Red-vented bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer

Dark-grey bushchat, Saxicola ferrea

Blue rock thrush, Monticola solitarius

Blue whistling thrush, Myophonus caeruleus

Fan-tailed warbler, Cisticola juncidis

Tawny prinia, Prinia inornata

Yellow-bellied prinia, Prinia flaviventris

Hume's leaf warbler, Phylloscopus humei

White-throated fantail, Rhipidura albicollis

Black-chinned babbler, Stachyris pyrrhops

Common babbler, Turdoides caudatus

Jungle babbler, Turdoides striatus

Great tit, Parus major

Bar-tailed treecreeper, Certhia himalayana

Oriental white-eye, Zosterops palpebrosus

Rufous-backed shrike, Lanius schach

Black drongo, Dicrurus macrocercus

House crow, Corvus splendens

Brahminy starling, Sturnus pagodarum

Common myna, Acridotheres tristis

Bank myna, Acridotheres ginginianus

House sparrow, Passer domesticus

Alexandrine parakeet, Psittacula eupatria

Green bee-eater, Merops orientalis

Rufous treepie, Dendrocitta vagabunda

Indian robin, Saxicoloides fulicatus

Mariana kingfisher

The Mariana kingfisher (Todiramphus albicilla) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae. It is endemic to the Northern Mariana Islands. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and plantations. It was formerly considered a subspecies of the collared kingfisher.

Melanesian kingfisher

The Melanesian kingfisher (Todiramphus tristrami) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae. It is endemic to the Bismarck Archipelago and the northwest and central Solomon Islands. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and plantations. It was formerly considered a subspecies of the collared kingfisher.

Mountain kingfisher

The mountain kingfisher (Syma megarhyncha) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae.

It is found in the New Guinea Highlands.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest and subtropical or tropical moist montane forest.

Ruddy kingfisher

The ruddy kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda) is a medium-sized tree kingfisher, widely distributed in east and southeast Asia.

Sri Lanka tree crab

The Sri Lanka tree crab, (Perbrinckia scansor), is a species of freshwater crabs of the family Gecarcinucidae that is endemic to Sri Lanka. It is the only known tree climbing freshwater crab found in the country. The crab is discovered from 11 localities from Sri Lanka throughout Kalu River, Walawe River and Gin River basins. Adult are known to survive well in rainwater-filled tree hollows of trees such as Shorea sp., Artocarpus sp., Dillenia sp., Garcinia sp., Myristica sp., and Gyrinops walla. Females with youngs can be seen during February and March on the ground, never within tree hollows. The known predators are Greater coucal, White-throated kingfisher, Sri Lanka grey hornbill and Eurasian otter.The species is categorized as least concern by IUCN, but the habitats are gradually declining. The water bodies of central hills are invaded by exotic species of fish and other aquatic flora and usage of many areas for human habitations are known to harm the animal. They are also collected illegally and used for many purposes local and overseas.

Sultanpur National Park

Sultanpur National Park (Hindi: सुल्तानपुर राष्ट्रीय वन्यजीव अभयारण्य) (formerly Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary) is located at Sultanpur village on Gurugram-Jhajhar highway, 15 km from Gurugram, Haryana and 50 km from Delhi in India.

Talaud kingfisher

The Talaud kingfisher (Todiramphus enigma) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae.

It is endemic to the Talaud Islands north of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and rivers.

It is threatened by habitat loss.

Torresian kingfisher

The Torresian kingfisher (Todiramphus sordidus) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae. It is found in southern New Guinea and in Australia. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and plantations. It was formerly considered a subspecies of the collared kingfisher.

Tree kingfisher

The tree kingfishers or wood kingfishers, subfamily Halcyoninae, are the most numerous of the three subfamilies of birds in the kingfisher family, with around 70 species divided into 12 genera, including several species of kookaburras. The subfamily appears to have arisen in Indochina and Maritime Southeast Asia and then spread to many areas around the world. Tree kingfishers are widespread through Asia and Australasia, but also appear in Africa and the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, using a range of habitats from tropical rainforest to open woodlands.

The tree kingfishers are short-tailed, large-headed, compact birds with long, pointed bills. Like other Coraciiformes, they are brightly coloured. Most are monogamous and territorial, nesting in holes in trees or termite nests. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks. Although some tree kingfishers frequent wetlands, none are specialist fish-eaters. Most species dive onto prey from a perch, mainly taking slow-moving invertebrates or small vertebrates.

Ultramarine kingfisher

The ultramarine kingfisher (Todiramphus leucopygius) is a species of bird in the family Alcedinidae.

Yellow-billed kingfisher

The yellow-billed kingfisher (Syma torotoro) is a medium-sized (length 20 cm, wingspan 29 cm, weight 40 g) tree kingfisher.



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