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“The Madman Kingfisher”
Photo Credit: Trevor Hardaker
Intaka Island Wetlands
Century City, South Africa
The Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata) is widely distributed in Africa, south of the Sahara. This is a small kingfisher, only 13 cm in length. The general color of the upper parts of the adult bird is bright metallic blue. The head has a short crest of black and blue feathers, which gives rise to the scientific name. The face, cheeks and underparts are reddish-brown and there are white patches on the throat and rear neck sides. The bill is black in young birds and reddish orange in adults; the legs are bright red. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are a duller version of the adult.
The Malachite Kingfisher likes to fish from reeds or sedges low over shallow water. The flight of the Malachite Kingfisher is rapid, the short rounded wings whirring until they appear a mere blur. It usually flies low over water. The bird has regular perches or stands low over the water from which it fishes. It sits upright, its tail pointed downwards, and drops down into the water suddenly with a splash, usually returning at once with a struggling captive (pictured here). Large food items are beaten on a bough or rail; small fish and insects are promptly swallowed. A fish is usually lifted and carried by its middle, but its position is changed, sometimes by tossing it into the air, before it’s swallowed headfirst. Fish, aquatic insects, and crustaceans are all on the menu.
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