Roberts No 433
by Pompie Burger
Visiting northern Namibia during the summer months you will invariably have heard the almost piercing call of the Woodland Kingfisher, so part and parcel of this area. Once you have spotted him, you will recognise that this is one of the better-looking summer visitors to our country. These birds are intra-African migrants and interestingly enough, although they are kingfishers, they do not eat fish at all, or as the ornithologist would say, they are non-aquatic. They prefer the woodland area, especially tall trees, so as regards this part of their name, the clever guys got it right.
These birds are most active early in the morning and late afternoon, although you will sometimes hear them calling even after dark. During this time they will be high up in the tallest tree calling and defining their territory to anybody who is interested. During the hotter part of the day you will often find them in the bushes low down in the shade doing the Namibian thing of having a little siesta.
Their typical chip-cherrrrrrrrr call is probably as much part of their make-up as their beautiful blue wings and the red upper mandible and black lower mandible. They differ from their lookalike, the Mangrove Kingfisher, in that the black ring around the eye extends as a wedge behind the eye, which is absent in the Mangrove Kingfisher, and they have black instead of red legs. The call is used in territorial display, with the additional flashing of their underwear displaying their pure white under-wing coverts while turning rapidly from side to side for everybody in the area to see.
Their diet consists mostly of insects and only the odd fish, probably one that ventured out of the water. They nest in deserted nest holes of barbets and woodpeckers.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘08/Jan ‘09 edition of Travel News Namibia.
Based in Windhoek, Pompie Burger is an orthopaedic surgeon whose part-time passion is photography, in particular wildlife, and specifically birds. This regularly takes him to the most remote corners of the country, resulting in riveting images and articles.
Pompie is the author and photographer of the coffee table book Birds of Namibia, which was published in 2008. The book contains articles and photographs which attest to the insight and knowledge of an accomplished observer.
Read more of his articles in our Birding Section.