The bird hide at Lake Panic in the Kruger National Park is a terrific spot that rarely fails to reward a patient birder with something of interest. In summer, the place could easily be called ‘Kingfisher Paradise’ because it is not unusual to see six species – Pied, Giant, Malachite, African Pygmy, Woodland and Brown-hooded – while peering out across the water and into the surrounding bush.
I had already seen four of these species, when I noticed a male Brown-hooded Kingfisher some distance away on the south bank. The sand banks here are ideal for nesting burrows, so I was not surprised when a female Brown-hooded Kingfisher flew in to perch alongside its presumed mate. After a minute or so, the male then flew off, to disappear from view around the back of the small island in front of the hide. But, within a moment or two, he returned to the perch, clasping what appeared to be a big leaf in his bill. This was passed quickly to the female and I could then see that it was a large Lunar Moth (Argema mimosae). Also known as the ‘Moon Moth’, this is arguably the most strikingly beautiful of the African moths, a large apple-green beauty with a pair of long trailing ‘tails’ or ‘racquets’ on the hind wings; the larvae feed on the foliage of Marula and Tamboti trees both of which are common around Lake Panic.
At any rate, the female kingfisher proceeded to bash the moth senseless, breaking off its glamorous wings, before swallowing the chubby body. This apparently delicious meal was undoubtedly a courtship offering by the male.
Kruger National Park, South Africa, November 2010