Giant kingfisher

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Giant kingfisher
Giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) male.jpg
Male, Lake Naivasha, Kenya
Megaceryle maxima -Zimbabwe-8-2c.jpg
Female near Triangle, Zimbabwe
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Alcedinidae
Subfamily: Cerylinae
Genus: Megaceryle
Species: M. maxima
Binomial name
Megaceryle maxima
(Pallas, 1769)
Giant Kingfisher.png
     distribution

The giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) is the largest kingfisher in Africa, where it is a resident breeding bird over most of the continent south of the Sahara Desert other than the arid southwest.

Taxonomy[edit]

The first formal description of the giant kingfisher was by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas in 1769 under the binomial name Alcedo maxima.[2] The current genus Megaceryle was erected by the German naturalist Johann Jakob Kaup in 1848.[3]

There are two subspecies:[4]

  • M. m. maxima (Pallas, 1769) – Senegal and Gambia to Ethiopia and south to South Africa
  • M. m. gigantea (Swainson, 1837) – Liberia to northern Angola and western Tanzania, island of Bioko

The nominate subspecies M. m. maxima occurs in wooded savanna while M. m. gigantea prefers tropical rainforest.[5]

Description[edit]

The giant kingfisher is 42–46 cm (16.5–18 in) long, with a large shaggy crest, a large black bill and fine white spots on black upperparts. The male has a chestnut breast band and otherwise white underparts with dark flank barring. The female has a white-spotted black breast band and a chestnut belly.[5] The forest race M. m. gigantea is darker, less spotted above, and more barred below than the nominate race, but the two forms intergrade along the forest edge zone.[5]

The call is a loud wak wak wak.

Behaviour[edit]

Breeding[edit]

In South Africa breeding takes place between September and January, in Zimbabwe from August to March, in Zambia March to April and in Liberia December to January.[5]

The giant kingfisher is monogamous and a solitary breeder. The nest is a long horizontal tunnel that is excavated into a river bank by both sexes using their feet and bills. The entrance hole is 11 cm (4.3 in) high and 15 cm (5.9 in) wide. The tunnel is typically 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in length but a tunnel of 8.5 m (28 ft) has been recorded. A clutch of around three eggs is laid in a chamber at the end of the tunnel.[5]

Feeding[edit]

This large species feeds on crabs, fish, and frogs, caught by diving from a perch.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Megaceryle maxima". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Pallas, Peter Simon (1769). Spicilegia zoologica quibus novae imprimis et obscurae animalium species iconibus: descristionibus atque commentariis illustrantur (in Latin). Berolini [Berlin]: Prostant apud Gottl. August. fascicle 6, p. 14. 
  3. ^ Kaup, Johann Jakob (1848). "Die Familie der Eisvögel (Alcedidae)". Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereins für das Großherzogthum Hessen und Umgebung (in German). 2: 68. OCLC 183221382. 
  4. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Rollers, ground rollers & kingfishers". World Bird List Version 7.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Fry, C. Hilary; Fry, Kathie; Harris, Alan (1992). Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Rollers. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 231–232. ISBN 978-0-7136-8028-7. 

External links[edit]