Kingfishers of South Africa

Southern Africa is a hotbed of kingfisher species. There are a total of 10 species that can be found in southern Africa and I was fortunate enough to see 9 of them on my previous visit. I would like to share of few photos of my favorite southern African kingfishers with you all today.

Let’s start with the smallest; the African Pygmy-Kingfisher. This miniature bird perfectly fits its name; it is small, about 12 cm tall in fact. I was able to find quite a few of these in both the Dwesa and Cwebe Nature Reserves. Unlike the kingfishers we are used to here in the United States, many kingfishers in Africa don’t even eat fish. Some, like the African Pygmy-Kingfisher live in the forests and prey on insects. I found the individual below one night while I was out looking for owls. Its bright colors were easy to pick out in the headlights of our truck. I quietly snuck up to the roosting bird to snap this shot.

African Pygmy-Kingfisher

Just slightly larger than the African Pygmy-Kingfisher is the well-known Malachite Kingfisher. This is another brightly-colored, insect-eating kingfisher that can be found in grassland habitats and sometimes along waterways.

Malachite Kingfisher

And just slightly larger than the Malachite, is this next species; the Half-colored Kingfisher. I wasn’t able to get any good photos of this species, but this photo shows the key field mark; the all black bill. This feature easily separates it from the similarly plumaged Malachite Kingfisher.

Half-collared Kingfisher

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher is probably the most common species of kingfisher in southern Africa. This species eats only insects and is found in any open, grassland habitat. Not quite as colorful as the previous three species, but still one of my favorites.

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

One of the rarest birds in all of southern Africa is the Mangrove Kingfisher. This species is restricted to mangrove forests and other well-wooded waterways of only the eastern coast of southern Africa. The Mangrove Kingfisher is an endangered species in South Africa. I was lucky enough to spot the one below early one morning while birding around the Cwebe Nature Reserve.

Mangrove Kingfisher

I began with the smallest kingfisher species, and now this final one is the largest, in fact it is the largest kingfisher species in the entire world; the well-named Giant Kingfisher. This bird truly is massive (43 cm). They are fairly common in wetland areas and along rivers.

Giant Kingfisher