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Giant Kingfisher - BirdForum Opus

Megaceryle maxima
Photo © by nigelblake
Abuko, Gambia, December 2002


42 -46 cm (16½-18 in) and up to 375 g (female) this is an impressively large Kingfisher.
It has a large crest and finely spotted white on black upperparts.
The male has a chestnut breast band and otherwise white underparts with dark flank barring, while the female has a white-spotted black breast band and chestnut belly.


Photo © by Scottishdude
Gambia March, 2010

Widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa:
Western Africa: Mauritania, Senegambia, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Angola
Eastern Africa: Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi
Southern Africa: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Swaziland
African Islands: Gulf of Guinea Islands: Bioko (Fernando Po)



There are 2 subspecies[1]:

  • M. m. maxima:
  • M. m. gigantea:


Photo © by steven(sa)

Almost any water body with sufficient food and overhanging branches, from which to hunt, including streams, rivers, estuaries, seashores and sewage ponds. Common along water furrows in villages in the South Karoo and at irrigation schemes.


It is shy and unobtrusive and therefore can be difficult to see.


The diet consists of crabs, fish, and frogs. They dive from a perch, often immersing completely. The prey is then taken to the perch and vigorously beaten against solid object until dead.


Monogamous, solitary nester. Breeding is from August to January in a hole excavated into sandbanks. Three to five oval, white and glossy eggs are laid into these riverbank tunnels.


The call is a loud wak wak wak.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Absolute Astronomy

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