Ceryle maxima (Giant kingfisher)

Megaceryle maximus (Giant kingfisher) [= Megaceryle maxima] Reuse visvanger [Afrikaans]; Reusevisvanger [Afrikaans]; Uxomoyi [Xhosa]; isiVuba [Zulu]; Esompwaningi [Kwangali]; Seinoli (generic term for kingfisher) [South Sotho]; Tshololwana (generic term for kingfisher) [Tsonga]; Mmatlhapi, Seinôdi (generic terms for kingfisher) [Tswana]; Afrikaanse reuzenijsvogel [Dutch]; Martin-pêcheur géant [French]; Riesenfischer, Rieseneisvogel [German]; Pica-peixe-gigante [Portuguese]

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 > Family: Cerylidae

Ceryle maxima (Giant kingfisher) Ceryle maxima (Giant kingfisher)

Giant kingfisher male, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Giant kingfisher female, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

The Giant kingfisher is fairly common in southern Africa, and is found mainly in South Africa and Zimbabwe, living in many types of aquatic habitats. It feeds mainly on crabs, with fish largely making up the rest of its diet. Both sexes excavate the nest, which takes about 7 days, and is dug into vertical sandbanks. Amazingly, they can excavate tunnels as long as 8.45m!. It lays 3-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 25-27 days. The nestlings are fed mainly by the male, once every 48-213 minutes. They seem to stay in the nest for about 37 days, after which they are still dependent on their parents for at least 21 days.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa, including southern Africa, where it is fairly common in northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique and South Africa. It can live in almost any water body with enough food and overhanging branches, such as streams, rivers, estuaries, seashores, sewage ponds and water furrows.

Distribution of Giant kingfisher in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Food 

It feeds mainly on crabs, with fish dominating the rest of its diet. It normally hunts from perches in tree canopies, where it searches for prey. Once the prey is located it dives into the water, sometimes immersing itself completely. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Vertebrates
    • crabs
      • Potamonautes perlatus (Cape river crab)
    • fish up to 17.7cm long
    • frogs
      • clawed toads
      • Xenopus (Platannas)
  • Aquatic invertebrates

Breeding

  • Both sexes excavate the nest in about a week, consisting of a burrow dug into a vertical sandbanks close to the waterline. It consists of a 0.9-8.45 m long tunnel, ending in a 20-60 cm wide unlined chamber.
  • Egg-laying season is normally from July-January, peaking from August-October.
  • It lays 3-5 eggs, which are incubated for 25-27 days by both sexes.
  • The nestlings are fed mainly by the male every one to four hours. They probably stay in the nest for about 37 days, after which they are still dependent on their parents for at least 21 days.

Threats

Status uncertain, although it is fairly common in protected regions. Its population seems to be decreasing in certain areas, probably due to loss of potential nest sites.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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