Swamp visitor flies in quietly

Let’s Chirp with Tim Cockcroft

JUST over a week ago I was browsing through our Eastern Cape Birding group on Facebook when I came across a report of a rather special bird for our area – a lone mangrove kingfisher had been spotted at the Sandbar restaurant at Bushman’s River.

DIFFERENT COLOURS: The mangrove kingfisher has a light grey head and its bill is more carmine-red than the deep red of its brown-hooded cousin Picture: TIM COCKCROFT

In October last year I made a special trip to Wavecrest on the Wild Coast to see these birds and got some fairly good sightings of a pair at their nest hole in a tree. Their distribution ends somewhere near Kei Mouth, beyond East London, so although the bird isn’t a “rarity” in our area per se, it is bordering on being rather far out of range.

The following morning, a friend and I went through to find this visitor. It wasn’t too long before we spotted it sitting in a euphorbia, sitting quietly and still, except for the occasional head movement as it kept an eye on us, yet quite relaxed and in no hurry to fly.

For those of you who might not know this bird, let me help you recognise it, should you see one. It is about the size of our very common brown-hooded kingfisher, but has a light grey head, a plain whitish chest with a slight greyish tinge. The flight feathers are a brilliant blue, the shoulders are black and the back is an ever so slightly slightly duller shade of blue. The bill is more carmine-red than the deep red of its brown-hooded cousin.

As its name implies, in its usual distribution range, it lives in mangrove swamps, where it hunts crabs at low tide. It also feeds on dragonflies, lizards and fish. The call is a far-carrying series of “chip” sounds, starting off slowly and then speeding up and descending the scale somewhat. You can hear Niall Perrins’ recording at http://www.xeno-canto.org/216425 .

That’s it for this week, folks. The kingfisher was still around at the time of writing this, so let’s hope it will stick around until this article is published, so you can go and see it.

If you are reading this and visiting our area, please note that I am available to guide you on a birdwatching tour. You can contact me on 072-314-0069 for more information. Until next time… enjoy your birding!


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