Having arrived in South Africa during November, the Woodland Kingfishers are now preparing to return to their non-breeding grounds in equatorial Africa. These demonstrative and dazzling birds spend the wet summer months here, feasting on the abundance of insects, lizards and frogs, and raising their young in tree cavities.
Like other members of the Halcyon genus, these kingfishers rarely – if ever – fish. They are birds of open savanna, pouncing on prey from a perch then returning to bash and immobilize their catch before swallowing it whole, or delivering it to their nestlings. Pairs share the nesting duties and form a close bond, constantly affirmed by elaborate wing-clapping displays.
At the height of summer, the South African bushveld resounds to the repetitive, trilling ‘Chi . . chi . . . chirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr’ call of the Woodland Kingfisher, as they proclaim their territories and chase their rivals. I have just returned from my second visit to Pretoriuskop restcamp in the space of two weeks: on the 2nd of March, Woodland Kingfishers were abundant and vociferous, but just a week later – on the 9th and 10th – they were nowhere to be seen, although one individual was heard calling at dawn and dusk. Clearly, the majority have moved on . . heading north to escape the dry winter months ahead.
Pretoriuskop, Kruger National Park, South Africa, March 2012