Roberts’ No. 428
by Pompie Burger
When travelling in a boat on one of the rivers in Namibia’s far north-eastern regions, the pied kingfisher is as much part of the scenery as the overhanging reeds along these channels. They sit on the reeds and fly off with their high-pitched ‘kwik, kwik, kwik’ once the boat comes too close, just to go and sit a few yards further down. It’s as if they’re actually taking you on a guided tour down the river.
Pied kingfishers hunt mainly from a perch, but at times fly overhead, hover and then dive down at speed, plunging into the water with an audible splash. They are experts at hovering, far better than any other kingfisher in the world. They may at times be seen up to three kilometres from the shore, foraging for the insects that make up their diet in addition to fish. Once an insect is caught, they beat it on the perch before swallowing it.
In Namibia pied kingfishers are most common in the north east in the vicinity of rivers. They also occur in and around water environments such as dams throughout the country except in the dry south east and western desert areas. Breeding takes place in sandbanks from August to November in colonies of up to 100 nests. The nest consists of a burrow one to two metres long with a chamber at the end. Pied kingfishers are co-operative breeders whereby young from the previous season’s breeding help raise the young of the current season. The nest is usually lined with excrement and particles of dead fish, thus a foul, rotten vomit smell emerges from the nest.
The difference between male and female pied kingfishers is very appropriate in that the female wears a brassiere, while the male sports a double breast band.
This article appeared in the May/June ‘05 edition of Travel News Namibia.
About the author:
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.