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Malachite Kingfisher (Corythornis cristatus)

It is a smallish, jewel-like kingfisher, preferring nearly all habitats with water, such as rivers, lakes, lagoons, and rice paddies. It hunts by sitting motionless on a perch for extended periods, before diving to the water and catching its spotted prey. The call is characterized by a grating “tsik” often given while on wings.

Read further to know more about the Malachite Kingfisher.

What is a Malachite Kingfisher?

Malachite Kingfisher (Corythornis cristatus) is a bird species belonging to the Alcedinidae family of river kingfishers. Its range spreads throughout sub-Saharan Africa, mainly resident, but may perform climate-induced movements. This bright-colored bird occurs in slow-moving water bodies, perching on aquatic vegetation. Its behavior when hunting food and breeding is distinctive in their family.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Coraciiformes

Family: Alcedinidae

Subfamily: Alcedinidae

Genus: Corythornis

Species: C. cristatus

Malachite Kingfisher Physical Description

Malachite Kingfisher is a smallish bird, growing approximately 5.11 inches or 13 centimeters and weighing 12 to 19 grams. Adult plumage shows vivid, shiny azure upperparts and hindneck, while face and underparts are of an orange-chestnut tone. The belly is duller, appearing light brownish-yellow or whitish. Throat and chin are white. A white patch also occurs on both neck sides.

Meanwhile, feathers on the forehead and crown are long, blue-flushed malachite green and black-barred. It creates a short crest that is often flat, but when raised, it will appear frayed. The sharp bill, legs, and feet are all reddish-orange while the eyes are dark brown.

Both sexes look similar. Juveniles or immature birds have a darkish mantle and wing tetrices, with blue gleam and duller markings. Feathers on the forehead and crown are also relatively shorter, while bills, legs, and feet are still black.

Where can they be spotted?

Malachite Kingfishers occur across much of sub-Saharan Africa. They thrive in freshwaters and wet areas, such as dams and lakes, and other slow-moving water bodies, like rivers, streams, marshes, swamps, estuaries, bogs, and mangrove forests. These birds can also be found in man-made habitats, such as irrigated fields, canals, ponds, wastewater treatment areas, and reservoirs.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Malachite Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfishers feed mainly on fish, prawns, crabs, aquatic insects, larvae, and frogs. As their name suggests, these birds are experts in catching fish. They perch on branches or reeds over slow-moving water for extended periods waiting for prey. Perches are usually situated 20 to 50 cm above the water. Once spotted, it will plunge into the water and snatch its victim. Then, it will return to its perch to consume the food item, swallowing it whole, or smashing it first onto the perch before eating to make it more manageable to handle.

These birds are territorial and will defend their territory against intruders, involving bill-grappling, flying pursuits, aerial attacks, and threat displays. If distrubed, the little crest on its forehead and crown may raise, but often appears frayed. They fly rapidly, but usually low over the water.

Malachite Kingfishers are monogamous and form strong bonds with their partners. The breeding season differs depending on the range but is associated with the surfeit in fish density. The male performs flight displays accompanied by calls at the start of the breeding period. He will also hunt prey and “courtship feed” the female when the nest is almost finished.

Both sexes construct the nest, by digging out a burrow on an earthen bank of a river or a stream. Other viable nest sites include soil below fallen trees, or earth mounds. Egg-laying usually occurs when the water level is low. The female will lay 3-6 eggs, which both parents will incubate for about 14 to 16 days. Both sexes will also feed the chicks, but the female mostly shoulders brooding. The offspring will leave the nest 22-25 days after hatching and will be chased off by the parents 36 to 40 days after fledging.

Malachite Kingfishers face no major threats at present and are common and widespread in its range. They are currently evaluated as Least Concern under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:

BOTSWANA

Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve

Savute

SOUTH AFRICA

Addo Elephant National Park

Cape Peninsula National Park

Hluhluwe Game Reserves

Knysna Lagoon

Kruger National Park

Madikwe Game Reserve

St Lucia Wetlands

NAMIBIA

Caprivi Region

ZAMBIA

Kafue

Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

ZIMBABWE

Gona-re-Zhou

Hwange

Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls

Malachite Kingfisher
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