|Malachite kingfisher at Lake Naivasha, Kenya|
This is a small kingfisher, 13 cm (5.1 in) in length. The general colour of the upper parts of the adult bird is bright metallic blue. The head has a short crest of black and blue feathers, which gives rise to the scientific name. The face, cheeks, and underparts are rufous and white patches are on the throat and rear neck sides.
The bill is black in young birds and reddish-orange in adults; the legs are bright red. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are a duller version of the adult.
This species is common to reeds and aquatic vegetation near slow-moving water or ponds. The flight of the malachite kingfisher is rapid, with the short, rounded wings whirring until they appear a mere blur. It usually flies low over water.
The bird has regular perches or stands from which it fishes. These are usually low over the water. It sits upright, its tail pointed downwards. It drops suddenly with a splash and usually returns at once with a struggling captive.
Large food items are beaten on a bough or rail; small fish and insects are promptly swallowed. A fish is usually lifted and carried by its middle, but its position is changed, sometimes by tossing it into the air, before it is swallowed head downwards. Fish, aquatic insects, and crustaceans are eaten.
The nest is a tunnel in a sandy bank, usually over water. Both birds excavate. Most burrows incline upward before the nesting chamber is reached.
Three or four clutches of three to six round, white eggs are placed on a litter of fish bones and disgorged pellets.
The call of this kingfisher is then a short shrill seek. The breeding song is a chuckling li-cha-cha-chui-chui.
A closely related species in Madagascar, the Madagascar malachite kingfisher, or Malagasy kingfisher, (Corythornis vintsioides), has a black bill and greenish crest, and is not quite as dependent on water as the African species. It is otherwise similar in plumage and behaviour to the more widespread species. Both the São Tomé kingfisher and the Príncipe kingfisher are usually considered subspecies, but are sometimes considered distinct species.
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- Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers by Fry, Fry and Harris, ISBN 0-7136-8028-8
- Malachite kingfisher - Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds.