Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo criatata)
Lake Panic (Sept'2005)
French: Martin-pêcheur huppé
German: Malachiteisvogel, Haubenzwergfischer
This is a common, small, aquatic kingfisher, 14 cm in length. Sexes are alike, but juveniles are a duller version of the adult. The general colour of the upper parts of the adult bird is bright metallic blue. The head has a short crest of black and blue feathers, which gives rise to the scientific name. The face, cheeks and underparts are rufous and there are white patches on the throat and rear neck sides. The bill is black in juveniles up to three months and reddish orange in adults. The eyes are dark brown and legs and feet bright red.
Call is a short, sharp, kweek
, given in flight, often rapidly repeated. They sing in duet, ii-tiii-cha-cha
, chui chui tiiichui
, ending in chuckle. Chuckle is given by perching pair. Nestling wheezes.
Throughout more central areas of Africa, from Senegambia to western Ethipia, south to South Africa; also São Tomé, Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia Is, Tanzania. In southern Africa, from northern Namibia to northern Botswana and eastern South Africa; also along Orange River valley, and in southern coastal districts.
This bird is strictly aquatic. Prefers well vegetated, slow flowing rivers and streams, but not with canopy closed over water. Also on dams, sheltered shores, coastal lagoons, tidal estuaries, mangrove swamps, sewage ponds and irrigation canals. They are less common in tropical forest zone (where it is largely replaced by congeners) than in savannas and absent from arid zones.
Solitary or in pairs. When disturbed flies fast and low over water for a short distance before reaching next perch again. Bathes by repeatedly diving with splashing belly flop and flying out to land on perch on opposite bank, shaking after each dip, then preening. When handled, performs Head-twisting
dispaly, stiffly turning head repeatedly from side to side, through nearly 180°, with bill slightly open, forehead feathers raised high.
Foraging & Food:
Perches usually low over the water, sitting motionless, peering intently into the water, occasionally flicking tail or head-bobbing once or twice, or turning rapidly to scan in opposite direction. Occasionally, suddenly raises then lowers crest. Dives steeply into water, fishing mainly within a few centimetres of surface. Carries prey back to perch, where it is beaten and swallowed whole. Also dives obliquely towards ground at the edge of the water to seize insects, or hawks flying insects from perch.
Eats small fish, tadpoles, frogs, aquatic insects ( water bettles,water boatman, larvae), dragonflies, mantids, beetles, grasshoppers, small crustaceans (including prawns and crabs) and lizards.
The breeding season is from August to November. Monogamous, solitary nester and territorial. The nest is a burrow excavated by both sexes in earthen bank, eg along streams, in road cutting, earth mound, soil around upturned roots of fallen tree.
Not threatened, but locally vulnerable to river pollution, application of pesticides, and habitat destruction.