Corythornis – African river kingfishers

Africa's colorful kingfishers that brighten up the continent's waterways

These kingfishers are small to medium-sized birds renowned for their striking colors and patterns. They typically feature vivid blues, greens, and chestnut hues, with sharp contrasts that make them easily distinguishable. These birds have robust and compact bodies, short legs, and large heads with prominent beaks designed for fishing and hunting small aquatic and terrestrial prey. They are predominantly found in sub-Saharan Africa, inhabiting a range of watery environments. From the banks of slow-moving rivers and lakes to the shores of isolated ponds and waterfalls, these kingfishers prefer locations where water is abundant and food is plentiful. Their choice of habitat is closely linked to their feeding habits, as these areas provide the insects, fish, and small invertebrates that make up their diet.

Corythornis kingfishers are primarily piscivorous (fish-eating), but their diet can also include aquatic insects and small amphibians. They are known for their patient hunting technique, often perching quietly before plunging headfirst into the water to catch their prey. They are solitary outside of the breeding season, and territorial disputes can be fierce, involving aerial chases and vocal battles.

When it comes to breeding, Corythornis kingfishers involve elaborate courtship displays, where males perform aerial dances and vocalizations to attract females. They typically nest in tunnels excavated in sandy banks or termite mounds, which they dig using their bills and feet. This nesting strategy provides protection against predators and the elements.