Malachite kingfisher

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Malachite kingfisher
C. c. cristatus, Lake Baringo, Kenya
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Alcedinidae
Subfamily: Alcedininae
Genus: Corythornis
C. cristatus
Binomial name
Corythornis cristatus
(Pallas, 1764)

See text


Alcedo cristata Pallas, 1764

The malachite kingfisher (Corythornis cristatus) is a river kingfisher which is widely distributed in Africa south of the Sahara. It is largely resident except for seasonal climate-related movements.


The malachite kingfisher was described by the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas in 1764 and given the binomial name Alcedo cristata.[2][3][4] The specific epithet cristata is from the Latin cristatus meaning "crested" or "plumed".[5] The adjective "malachite" in the vernacular name normally refers to the dark green colour of the copper containing mineral.[6] This kingfisher has blue upperparts but has black banding with pale blue or greenish-blue on its forehead.[7]

A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2007 confirmed that the most closely related species is the Malagasy kingfisher, (Corythornis vintsioides).[8] The Malagasy kingfisher 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 malachite kingfisher.[9] The São Tomé kingfisher and the Príncipe kingfisher were sometimes considered as distinct species but a study published in 2008 showed that they are both subspecies of the malachite kingfisher.[10]

There are five subspecies:[11]

  • C. c. galeritus (Statius Müller, PL, 1776) – Senegal to Ghana
  • C. c. nais (Kaup, 1848) – island of Príncipe off the coast of West Africa (Principe kingfisher)
  • C. c. thomensis Salvadori, 1902 – island of São Tomé (São Tomé kingfisher)
  • C. c. cristatus (Pallas, 1764) – Nigeria eastwards to western Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, and south to southern Angola, northern Namibia and Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa
  • C. c. stuartkeithi Dickerman, 1989 – eastern Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia


It is a small kingfisher, around 13 cm (5.1 in) in length. In Southern Africa, the reference size is 14cm[12] and in East Africa[13] and Ethiopia, 12cm.[14] The general color 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 there are white patches 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.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This species is common to reeds and aquatic vegetation near slow-moving water or ponds. It occurs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa except for the very arid parts of Somalia, Kenya, Namibia and Botswana.

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.

Malachite Kingfisher



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 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.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Corythornis cristatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T61650582A95173998. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T61650582A95173998.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1945). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 5. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 176.
  3. ^ Sherborn, C. Davies (1905). "The new species of birds in Vroeg's catalogue, 1764". Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 47: 332–341 [334 No. 55]. Includes a transcript of the 1764 text.
  4. ^ Rookmaaker, L.C.; Pieters, F.F.J.M. (2000). "Birds in the sales catalogue of Adriaan Vroeg (1764) described by Pallas and Vosmaer". Contributions to Zoology. 69 (4): 271–277. doi:10.1163/18759866-06904005.
  5. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  6. ^ "malachite". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  7. ^ Fry, C. Hilary; Fry, Kathie; Harris, Alan (1992). Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Rollers. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 206–207. ISBN 978-0-7136-8028-7.
  8. ^ Moyle, R.G.; Fuchs, J.; Pasquet, E.; Marks, B.D. (2007). "Feeding behavior, toe count, and the phylogenetic relationships among alcedinine kingfishers (Alcedininae)". Journal of Avian Biology. 38 (3): 317–326. doi:10.1111/J.2007.0908-8857.03921.x.
  9. ^ Fry, C. Hilary; Fry, Kathie; Harris, Alan (1992). Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Rollers. London: Christopher Helm. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-7136-8028-7.
  10. ^ Melo, M.; Fuchs, J. (2008). "Phylogenetic relationships of the Gulf of Guinea Alcedo kingfishers". Ibis. 150 (3): 633–639. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2008.00826.x.
  11. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2016). "Rollers, ground rollers & kingfishers". World Bird List Version 7.3. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  12. ^ Sinclair, Ian; Hockey, Phil; Tarboton, Warwick (2011). Birds of Southern Africa. London: Struik Nature. p. 256. ISBN 978-177007-925-0.
  13. ^ Stevenson, Terry; Fanshawe, John (2014). Birds of East Africa. London: Christopher Helm. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-7136-7347-0.
  14. ^ Redman, Nigel; Stevenson, Terry; Fanshawe, John (2011). Birds of The Horn of Africa. London: Christopher Helm. p. 242. ISBN 978-1-408157350.

External links[edit]