The King Returns: Who is the King?

Early one morning in November, my husband called out excitedly:

“He is back did you hear him?” 

I didn’t even have to ask who he was talking about, as I also heard the cry heralding the return of the Woodlands Kingfisher!

Every year in the first two weeks of November we hear the sound of this beautiful brightly plumed bird! He announces his return from his travels with a cry  beginning with one sharp, loud, high note, followed by a repetition of trills which gradually descend, finally fading away.  The male arrives first and keeps on calling untill the female joins him. With this sound he also proclaims that our garden is his breeding territory and he the king  for the next few months.

Image credit : Woodlands Kingfisher http://www.treknature.com/gallery/Africa/South_Africa/photo273171.htm

First step after his return is the territorial battle! The battle usually takes place between the Woodlands Kingfisher, the Indian Mynahs and the Crowned Plover Even our dogs are informed in no uncertain terms that he is the king now. He is fearless and attacks the other birds by swooping down on them with his big orange red beak open and ready for attack. Once his dominance is established and the female has arrived , nesting starts. Interestingly enough they nest in the same place every year. They found an opening in the fascia boards and nest in our roof. Some people will react with horror at this as it does cause a mess and lots of noise when the young ones hatch, but we love having our king as a guest!

Mating ritual

Image credit: http://birdsoftheworldonline.com/woodland-kingfisher-halcyon-senegalensis

For the past 10 years we have had the pleasure of welcoming these royal blue birds back in our garden in November, enabling us to watch them breed and even watch the little ones learn to fly. We see them leave each April but know that they will be back in a few months.

The Woodlands Kingfisher, contrary to his name does not fish for its food, but rather catches insects by swooping down on them from a perch high up in  a tree.

Image credit: http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/birds/dacelonidae/halcyon_senegalensis.htm

During the dry winter season it migrates up to  North Africa usually leaving in April and returning to the  bushveld area north of Pretoria in November.When my daughter sees the Woodlands Kingfisher in Tanzania, she usually lets me know and we fondly imagine that it is the same bird who left our property and is passing through theirs.

Maybe we can send a message with him next year?

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