Malachite Kingfisher

By Eleanor Warren-Thomas

Scientific Name: Alcedo cristata

Malalchite kingfishers are common across sub-Saharan Africa: this means they are common in all of the countries south of the Sahara desert, all the way down to South Africa. You can see a map of where malachite kingfishers live here: Bird Life. They live in bogs, swamps, marshes, estuaries, mangrove forests, and near rivers and streams. They also live in some man-made habitats, such as canals, drainage ditches, irrigated fields, ponds, reservoirs, and even waste water treatment areas!

Malachite kingfishers, as their name suggests, are experts at catching fish! They sit on perches (such as fence posts or tree branches) over slowly moving water, and fly down into the water to catch fish, prawns, crabs, and even insect larvae and frogs. Once they catch something, they return quickly to their perch and they may hit their prey on the perch to make it easier to handle. If the kingfisher catches a fish, it will turn it around to make it easy to swallow. Because they eat a wide variety of types of food, and are happy to live in lots of different habitat types, you can find them in lots of places across Africa. If you were to come across one, it would probably be scared, and swoop away very fast and low over the water to another perch. If the bird is disturbed, it might also raise the little crest on top of its head. You can see a picture of this crest at the bottom of this page: Avian Web.

Malachite Kingfisher. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
Malachite kingfishers live in pairs, and they lay their eggs in holes in the earth. They don't make proper nests, but fill the hole with fish bones and pellets that they cough up. Both the male and female birds dig the hole in an earthy bank, such as a river bank or a bank by the side of the road, and the female kingfisher lays 3-6 round, white eggs in the nest. The pairs are territorial, so together they defend an area where they live and breed.

The IUCN Red List, which is a worldwide record of all endangered species, says that the malachite kingfisher is of 'Least Concern'. This means that scientists are not worried that the numbers of malachite kingfishers are falling, and they are common in many places.

Malachite kingfishers are about 13cm long (5 inches). Males and females are the same color, and young birds look similar but have less bright colors.

Baby kingfishers have black bills, but the adults have orange bills, like the one in the picture.

The malachite kingfisher has a closely related species that lives in Madagascar, called the Madagascar Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo vintsioides).

An albino malachite kingfisher was once spotted in 2006, by a researcher at London Zoo: Zoological Society of London

You can find out lots more about all of the species in the kingfisher family here: University of Michigan


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