Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala
aka Gray-hooded Kingfisher Appearance
Grey-headed Kingfishers are small, 8" (21cm) birds, with pale grey head, nape and breast. A white throat, with chestnut belly and flanks. The back and mantle are very dark blue (black in poor light). The rump and tail are bright cobalt blue, showing irridescent in strong light. Orange-red dagger-shaped bill and feet. In flight, the underneath of the wing shows chestnut. Habits
Grey-headed Kingfishers are usually seen as a solitary bird, perched on low branches. They nest in holes in a horizontal burrow, up to 1 metre long, with the nesting chamber at the end. They are parasitised by Greater Honeyguides. 2 - 6 eggs are laid that take 3 weeks to hatch. Fledging happens after a further 3 weeks. During this time, they are predated by Monitor Lizards
and the adults repeatedly dive-bomb them.
The nesting site is never used again, due to the Grey-headed Kingfisher's laziness in clearing debris from the burrow. Diet
Grey-headed Kingfishers dart down from their perch to collect terrestrial insects and small invertabrates. Occasionally, they will take small lizards. Resident
Grey-headed Kingfishers are an uncommon bird of bushed and wooded areas, often close to water, although I have seen an abundance in Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy.
There are three sub-species seen in Kenya: Halcyon leucocephala leucocephala
is black-backed with blue-black wings - seen in western half of Kenya and joined by migrants from the north during Nov > April. Halcyon leucocephala hyacinthina
has purple cast in wings - seen along coastal regions, Tsavo NP and north along Tana River, to Arawale NP. Halcyon leucocephala pallidiventris
has pale grey back and pale chestnut on belly - is a migrant from the south during Apr > Sept, seen north of Kisumu. Extra Grey-headed Kingfisher Facts
The Grey-headed Kingfisher's rarely heard call is a softly chirped "tit-tit-tit-tit".
The Latin name (Halcyon) comes from the Greek "hals", meaning sea and "kyon", meaning conceiving, because the ancient Greeks believed Kingfishers nested on the sea. Photographs
Photographed at Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy.