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Alex’s Birding Chirp No. 11 – Kingfishers continued…


Continuing with the kingfisher theme, we will discuss the remaining three kingfisher species found in our reserve called the Halcyon Kingfishers. They are the so-called tree kingfishers and are largely terrestrial species. They are the Brown-hooded Kingfisher, the Woodland Kingfisher and the striped kingfisher.

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher depicted here is 23cm and slightly larger than the striped Kingfisher.

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher as the name implies, has a brown head with black/grey streaks. There is a broad buffy collar above the brownish-black mantle. The all-red bill is very indicative as the other two Kingfishers have either an upper or lower black bill. The main wing feathers are black with bright turquoise secondary feathers. The rest of the body is mainly a tawny colour. Males and females are very similar and difficult to tell apart, although the female is usually darker and more tawny.

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher enjoys having access to wetlands and dams and is usually found in woodland areas where they can be spotted along the edges near water. While they do enjoy wetlands, they are not dependent on them with their main diet consisting of insects and vertebrates. Unlike the Woodland and Striped Kingfishers, the Brown-hooded Kingfisher nests in a horizontal tunnel excavated into a vertical bank. The Woodland and Striped Kingfishers prefer to nest in old Barbet and Woodpecker holes.

The Striped Kingfisher is 18cm in size, a small and dainty woodland-dwelling kingfisher with powder-blue tail and flight feathers, creamy collar, dark eye-stripe, and streaky brown crown. The black upper bill differentiates it from the other two.

Singles and pairs are inconspicuous in the mid-canopy of parkland-like savanna and woodland, preferring more arid thornveld than other dryland kingfishers. It draws attention to itself with a loud, ringing “keep-kirrrrrr” and rollicking “trrreerrr-treeerr-treeer” calls. The Striped Kingfisher is parasitized by the lesser honeyguide.

This is a medium-sized kingfisher, 20-23 cm in length. The adult has a bright blue back, wing panel and tail. The large bill has a red upper mandible and black lower mandible.

The Woodland kingfisher is common across sub-Saharan Africa, occupying a wide variety of woodland and savanna habitats. It is quite an adaptable hunter, feeding mainly on insects but also small vertebrates, snakes and even other birds! It is an intra-African migrant, arriving in southern Africa around September-December, breeding then leaving for Central Africa around March-April. Characterised by its loud trilling song “kri-trrrrrrrr”, descending and fading.