Colours of the Kingfishers
Botswana Bird Guide

© Malachite Kingfisher
The Kingfishers of Africa are some of the most colourful creatures of the African wilderness and despite their name feed on a variety of prey besides fish.

By Leigh Kemp

The Sounds of Africa

There are some charachteristic sounds in Africa - the rolling roar of a Lion, the whoop of a Hyena, the haunting moonlit night call of the Fiery-necked Nightjar and as some may think is the call of Africa, the arrogant cry of a Fish Eagle - but there are calls that indicate a season.

In parts of southern Africa the arrival of spring is heralded by the trilling call of the Woodland Kingfisher and the first calls of the season are welcomed. Many species of Kingfisher are renowned for their calls

There are more than eighty species of Kingfisher in the world of which eighteen are found in Africa and of these 10 are found in southern and east Africa. They are of the most colourful of birds and are charachterised by their necks with long, thick bills. Their flight pattern is fast and direct and very seldom do they fly above tree level.

Feeding on Fish and Other Prey

Pied Kingfisher
Despite the name not all kingfishers eat fish. Some species feed on reptiles and small rodents while others will feed on insects and other invertebrates. The 'fishing' species include the largest member in the family, the giant kingfisher, which supplements its fish diet with a huge percentage of river crabs and frogs.

The Pied Kingfisher is able to able to fish a distance from shore because of its ability to hover whilst searching for prey. Other fishing species are the jewel-coloured Malachite and the Half-collared kingfishers. All these species nest in holes excavated in river banks.

©Woodland Kingfisher

Woodland Kingfisher with Prey
Six species of kingfisher in Africa do not feed on fish, instead capturing insects, other invertebrates and small vertebrates by 'diving' onto dry land. Most of these species are however found near water as they nest in sandbanks.

The woodland, mangrove and striped kingfishers nest in holes in trees. Although most kingfishers will be found near water the Striped Kingfisher has been recorded in the arid areas of the Kalahari Desert.

The Woodland and the tiny Pygmy Kingfishers are inter-African migrants. The Pygmy Kingfisher undertakes its journey in the hours of dark, unfortunately often falling victim to glass windows of lit buildings.

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