Family: Alcedinidae (alcedinid kingfishers)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Coraciiformes

The alcedinid kingfishers are distributed through Eurasia, Africa, Madagascar, Australasia and Oceania. There are three genera of which two, Alcedo and Ispidina occur in southern Africa. There are 17 species of Alcedo of which two occur in southern Africa. The genus Ispidina occurs in Africa and Madagascar and there are three species of which one occurs in southern Africa.

Species indigenous to southern Africa

Alcedo cristata (Malachite kingfisher) 

The Malachite kingfisher is common in many areas of southern Africa, living in a wide variety of aquatic habitats. It feeds mainly on fish, as well as amphibians and insects. Both sexes dig a burrow, which is used as a nesting site, and placed in the banks of rivers or streams. It lays 3-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 14-16 days. The chicks are brooded for the first few weeks of their lives, before leaving the nest at 22-25 days old. They start fishing within one week of fledging, sometimes "catching" twigs and leaves. They are chased away by their parents at 36-41 days old.

Alcedo semitorquata (Half-collared kingfisher) 

The Half-collared kingfisher is widespread but uncommon, with populations scattered across sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, it is most common in Zimbabwe and South Africa's rivers, streams and estuaries. Its diet consists mostly of fish, which it hunts by sitting on a perch for long periods then, once it spots a fish, diving in to catch it. It nests in burrows dug into vertical riverbanks, excavated by both sexes. Here it lays 1-6, usually 3-4 eggs which are incubated by both sexes. The chicks probably remain in the nest for about 27 days, learning to fly soon after emerging.

Ispidina picta (African pygmy-kingfisher, Pygmy kingfisher)

The African pygmy-kingfisher is widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, partly due to its ability to live in a wide range of woodland types. Unlike many other Alcedinid kingfishers, the African pygmy-kingfisher rarely eats fish, but rather feeds mainly insects, occasionally small vertebrates. It is an intra-African breeding migrant, arriving here in September-October. Soon afterwards, it starts breeding, laying 3-6 eggs in a burrow dug into a sandbank. The chicks stay in the nest for a 2-3 weeks, after which they rapidly develop hunting skills, becoming fully independent soon after fledging. Then, the juveniles and adults migrate back to other parts of Africa.


 Contact us if you can contribute information or images to improve this page.

Birds home   Biodiversity Explorer home   Iziko home   Search