Halcyon leucocephala (Grey-headed kingfisher, Grey-hooded kingfisher) 

Gryskopvisvanger [Afrikaans]; Muningi (generic term for kingfisher) [Kwangali]; Tshololwana (generic term for kingfisher) [Tsonga]; Grijskopijsvogel [Dutch]; Martin-chasseur à tête grise [French]; Graukopfliest [German]; Pica-peixe-de-barrete-cinzento [Portuguese]

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Halcyon leucocephala (Grey-headed kingfisher, Grey-hooded kingfisher)  Halcyon leucocephala (Grey-headed kingfisher, Grey-hooded kingfisher) 

Grey-headed kingfisher. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]

Grey-headed kingfisher. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

The Grey-headed kingfisher is common across sub-Saharan Africa, mainly occurring in well developed woodland, often near rivers or streams. Its diet mainly consists of insects, especially grasshoppers, occasionally eating small vertebrates. It is an intra-African breeding migrant, arriving here around April and leaving in the period from December-May. Both sexes excavate the nest, which is a burrow consisting of a tunnel leading to a nest chamber, dug into riverbanks, gullies, etc. It lays 3-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for about 20 days. The eggs hatch into small, naked chicks with black bills and brownish legs, who are cared for by both parents.

Distribution and habitat

Common across sub-Saharan Africa, avoiding arid regions. In southern Africa, it is most common in Zimbabwe and northern Botswana, but it also has populations scattered across northern Namibia, Mozambique and Limpopo Province. It prefers well-developed woodland often close to rivers or streams, such as Acacia and Mopane (Colosphermum mopane) woodland.

Distribution of Grey-headed 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.  

Movements and migrations

Intra-African migrant, breeding in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, DRC and Malawi, moving north during the non-breeding season. In southern Africa it arrives in April, goes through its breeding cycle and then usually leaves from December-May. Note that it does not breed in all areas of its southern African range, with most of the birds breeding in Zimbabwe and surrounds.

Food 

Its diet mainly consists of insects, especially grasshoppers, occasionally eating small vertebrates. It usually hunts by sitting on a perch, trying to locate prey. Once it spots something it dives to the ground, picking up the prey item before returning to its perch. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • Both sexes excavate the nest, which is a burrow consisting of a tunnel leading to a nest chamber. It is usually dug into riverbanks, erosion gullies, irrigation ditches and termite mounds.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-December, peaking from October-November.
  • It lays 3-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 20 days.
  • The eggs hatch into small, naked chicks with black bills and brownish legs, which are cared for by both parents.

Threats

Not threatened.

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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