The Giant kingfisher is, as one would expect from its name, the largest of all the kingfishers found in the southern African region.  They have a length of approximately 44 cm, and the sexes are dimorphic in plumage colouration.  The upperparts of both sexes are black, speckled with white; the male has a rufous chest and a white belly, while in the female this is reversed – she has a rufous belly and white chest heavily speckled with black.  Legs, eyes and bill are black in both sexes.

The Giant kingfisher is widely spread throughout most of Africa and in the southern African region is confined mostly to the wetter western part of the region.  In Namibia it is found only along the Cunene River in the north and the Orange River in the south.  They are quite solitary by nature and are usually found singly or in pairs.  Within its range it is found along almost any stretch of water that provides sufficient food, preferably stretches with trees that have branches overhanding the water from which it can hunt.

The call of the Giant kingfisher is a loud “kek” or “Kak-kak-kak-kak”.  It generally hunts from a perch, diving into the water to catch its prey and often submerges itself completely.  It feeds on fish mainly, but also on crabs and frogs.  Once the prey has been caught, it is usually beaten vigorously against a branch or other solid object before being eaten.

The Giant kingfisher is monogamous and builds its nest in a tunnel excavated into a suitable bank close to the water.  These tunnels may be anything from one to seven meters long and end in the unlined chamber in which the female lays a clutch of three to five glossy white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 26 days.

The scientific binomial for the Giant kingfisher is Megaceryle maxima; Megaceryle from the Greek for a “great kingfisher” and maxima from the Latin meaning “the largest”.  Thus we have the largest great kingfisher, and that it certainly is.


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