Tips on how to Spot a Malachite Kingfisher

Sep 13 2016
'If at first glance a dam in a game reserve seems to be bare of wildlife, don't despair. Switch-off your car engine, and scan the nearby grasses and reeds surrounding the water's edge, using binoculars', says Karen van Demme, wildlife photographer and avid birder. 'You may just be lucky enough to catch a flash of bright blue, the common telltale of a malachite kingfisher.' To experience wildlife and bird sightings in national parks and game reserves download the Latest Sightings app (iPhone / iPad or Android) which shares real time sightings with visitors!
'If you are quiet and patient you can often spot them where they nest,' says Karen. These tiny malachite kingfishers are aquatic birds, and common residents of lakes, dams, streams and ponds where they tend to perch (these are usually fixed and established by them). They use these as a vantage point to hunt for small fish, insects and other crustaceans.  
You can identify them through their bright metallic blue colour of the upper body in the adult bird. The head has a short crest of black and blue feathers, which gives rise to their scientifc name, Alcedo cristata. Their face, cheeks, and underbelly are reddish-brown with white patches on their throat and rear neck sides. Some birds further north of Africa have paler bellies, backs and crests. The juvenile malachite kingfisher has a black bill, while the adult has a red one. 
This specific sighting of a malachite kingfisher was captured by Karen mid-morning near Phabeni gate in the Kruger National Park. She says, 'There is a road to the right leading to Nyamundwa dam which is where I chanced my luck and to got to photograph him.'
They are most fascinating to observe as they sit and watch the water intently with a slight bobbing head movement. Whilst fishing you can clearly see how they raise their crests. The flight of the malachite kingfisher is at high-speed, with the short rounded wings whirring so fast that they become unfocused. They tend to fly low over the water and it will suddenly drop with a splash before returning with a struggling captive. 
Should you spot a malachite kingfisher, take some time to stick around and observe it! Who knows, you may just get to witness its incredible fishing technique... 


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