Africa’s biggest kingfisher, the Giant Kingfisher weighs in at about 360g and measure around 44cm in length. They feed mainly on crabs, fish (up to 18cm long!), frogs and other water-living creatures and are therefore almost always encountered at or near a source of water with adequate perches (natural or man-made) from which it can strike an attack. They seldom dive from a hovering position like many other kingfishers do. The prey is killed by repeatedly bashing it against the perch before it is swallowed.
Giant Kingfishers are monogamous and territorial, with each pair laying claim to a stretch of water up to 4km long. Pairs construct a tunnel of about 2 or 3m deep (extraordinarily up to 8m deep) into a sturdy river bank (this could take a week or even more), at the end of which a chamber is prepared for the pair to incubate the clutch of 3 – 5 eggs over a 4 week period. In South Africa Giant Kingfishers breed in spring and summer. The chicks stay in the nest for 5 – 6 weeks after hatching and remain dependent on their parents for at least another 3 weeks or so after leaving the nest.
In our country Giant Kingfishers may be found in all provinces, though in the Northern Cape they’re mainly restricted to the course of the Orange River and its tributaries. It further occurs over most of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, reflecting that vegetation type is not as important a habitat consideration for this species as is the presence of a reliable water source providing a sufficient food supply. The IUCN considers the Giant Kingfisher to be of least concern.