Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis)

Author: Bibitayo Ayobami Owolabi. Department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management. Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria. bibitayo.owolabi@uniosun.edu.ng. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0136-6720

The Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis) is a true kingfisher that migrates between Africa and Europe. From September through December, they arrive in South Africa to breed, then migrate to Central Africa in March or April.

Woodland Kingfishers are nimble hunters who eat mostly insects, but also small vertebrates like snakes, fish, and other birds. They are quick, direct, and territorial, ready to attack intruders, including people.


The Woodland Kingfisher is a medium-sized kingfisher that is 7.9 to 9.4 inches (20 to 24 cm) in length and weighs between 54 and 81 grams.

The back feathers, wings, and tail of mature birds are all vivid blue. Its shoulder is a stunning black color, with beautiful white plumage on its underparts, neck, and head. The lower mandible of their enormous bills is black, while the upper mandible is red. They are commonly confused with the Mangrove Kingfisher, which has a similar color scheme, but their bills are completely red.

The lores, or the space between the eye and bill on the side of the head, of Woodland Kingfishers are dark, resulting in a dark loral stripe visible through their eyes. The primary, upper arm, and underwing feathers are all black with a white tectrix. The inner region of the flight feathers and the breast, on the other hand, is white. Males and females have similar appearances. Their young, or immature birds, have duller plumage and murky-brown bills than adults.


The Woodland Kingfisher can be found in tropical regions south of the Sahara, Pretoria and moving northwards. Although communities in the north and south migrate to the equatorial zone during the dry, arid season, they normally live and thrive within 8 degrees of the equator.

While they are related to the kingfisher, they prefer dry environments and can be found far from water sources. They like woodland areas with lots of trees, especially Acacias, even if they are close to human settlements. These birds are usually solitary, but they can often be found in small groups.

Feeding and breeding ecology

The Woodland Kingfisher frequently hunts for prey from a perch. It swoops down to get the prey, seizing it with its bills once it spots a victim. They then return to the perch, where they kill and swallow the prey. Crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, ants, scorpions, millipedes, and termites are among the insects they eat.

They can also eat vertebrates including lizards, snakes, frogs, and even other birds like the Bronze mannikin, White-eared barbets, Black-collared barbets, and red-throated wryneck.

Woodland Kingfishers prefer tree cavities, both natural and those created by woodpeckers and barbets, to build their nests. They can also be found in nest boxes and holes beneath the eaves of houses and structures. The egg-laying season lasts from November through March, but the months of December and January are the busiest. They lay 2-4 bright, glossy white eggs per clutch, which they incubate for around two weeks. The chicks grow quickly and fledge in 3-4 weeks since they are cared for by both parents. They will, however, rely on their parents for another five weeks before scattering.


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