The Pied Kingfisher is possibly the largest hovering bird, capable of truly ‘floating’ in mid-air for extended periods of time. This bird is easily identifiable by two distinct traits; firstly, it’s the only one of its clan of Kingfishers with black and white plumage. Secondly, its unique hunting style separates it from the crowd.
The hunt begins with a low flight past the water, an abrupt vertical climb in the air to heights of even ten meters, a brief hover for a few seconds holding its trunk in a nearly vertical position, yet beating its wings rapidly, with its head and bill angled sharply down, focused on the water, ‘locking’ its target. It’s then time for the final dive right into the water! Stunning the prey with its speed, it grabs them with its strong beak. Milliseconds separate the destiny of the meal for the bird.
Once the target is secured, it is swallowed whole if small enough, or carried back to the perch, beaten to death, severed and then swallowed.
It nests in holes on sandbanks or raised mud dunes carefully dug up by the breeding pair. A complex system of tunnels and chambers connect to the nest, which is painstakingly built over weeks. The strong bill and tough claws ensure that the sand is excavated and thrown out to create the complex labyrinth.
Pied Kingfishers are cooperative breeders in the sense that adults care for the young of their community. They are found in abundance along the banks of the lake near Orange County, Kabini and the best place to view them would be from the library overlooking the waters.