Halcyon senegalensis (Woodland kingfisher) 

Bosveldvisvanger [Afrikaans]; iNkotha (also applied to Little bee-eater), uNongozolo [Zulu]; Muningi (generic term for kingfisher) [Kwangali]; Tshololwana (generic term for kingfisher) [Tsonga]; Senegalese ijsvogel [Dutch]; Martin-chasseur du Sénégal [French]; Senegalliest [German]; Pica-peixe-dos-bosques [Portuguese]; Halcyon senegaloides (Mangrove kingfisher) Manglietvisvanger [Afrikaans]; uNongozolo [Zulu]; Mangrove-ijsvogel [Dutch]; Martin-chasseur des mangroves [French]; Mangroveliest [German]; Pica-peixe-dos-mangais [Portuguese]

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Halcyon senegalensis (Woodland kingfisher)  Halcyon senegalensis (Woodland kingfisher) 

Woodland kingfisher, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]

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

Halcyon senegalensis (Woodland kingfisher)  Halcyon senegalensis (Woodland kingfisher) 
Woodland kingfisher, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ©] Woodland kingfisher with grasshopper, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]

The Woodland kingfisher is common across sub-Saharan Africa, occupying a wide variety of woodland and savanna habitats. It is quite an adaptable hunter, feeding mainly insects but also small vertebrates, such as fish, snakes and even other birds! It is an intra-African migrant, arriving in southern Africa around September-December, breeding then leaving for Central Africa around March-April. It usually nests in tree cavities, either natural or excavated by barbets or woodpeckers, laying 2-4 eggs incubated by both sexes. The chicks grow rapidly, cared for by both parents, leaving the nest at about 18-24 days old. They remain dependent on their parents for about 5 more weeks after fledging, after which they usually disperse.

Distribution and habitat

Common across sub-Saharan Africa, although absent from arid areas such as the deserts of Somalia. In southern Africa it occurs in northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa. It is highly adaptable, occupying a wide range of woodland and savanna habitats, provided there are streams, rivers or lakes. It also occurs in man-altered areas, such as parks, gardens and farmland.

Distribution of Woodland 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.  

Call

 
   

Recorded by Clem Hagner, [© Transvaal Museum]

 

Movements and migrations

Intra-African migrant, arriving in southern Africa from September-December, going through its breeding cycle before leaving for Central Africa in the period from March-April.

Food 

It is quite an adaptable hunter, feeding mainly on insects, supplemented with small vertebrates, such as fish, snakes and even other birds! It usually hunts from a perch, searching for food. Once it spots prey it dives down to the ground, grabs the prey item with its bill then flies back up to its perch, where it usually beats the animal to death.  The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • It usually nests in tree cavities, either natural or excavated by barbets or woodpeckers, such as Crested barbet, Black-collared barbet, Bearded woodpecker, Bennett's woodpecker and Golden-tailed woodpecker. It also uses nest boxes and holes underneath the eaves of buildings.
  • Egg-laying season is from about November-March, peaking from December-January.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for an estimated period of 13-14 days.
  • The chicks grow rapidly and are cared for by both parents, leaving the nest at about 18-24 days old. They remain dependent on their parents for about 5 more weeks after fledging, after which they usually disperse.

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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