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Species Guide
A photo of a Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima), male
Giant Kingfisher, Male

Giant Kingfisher

Megaceryle maxima

The Giant Kingfisher, Megaceryle maxima, stands as Africa's largest kingfisher, boasting a length of 42–46 cm. It is adorned with a large, shaggy crest and a robust black bill. The plumage is characterized by fine white spots set against a black backdrop on the upperparts.

Identification Tips

Males can be distinguished by a chestnut breast band and predominantly white underparts with dark flank barring. Females, on the other hand, display a white-spotted black breast band and a chestnut belly. The subspecies M. m. gigantea, found in forests, is darker, less spotted above, and exhibits more barring below than the nominate race.


The nominate subspecies, M. m. maxima, favors wooded savanna environments, while M. m. gigantea is more inclined towards tropical rainforests.


This resident breeding bird is widespread across most of Africa south of the Sahara Desert, with the exception of the arid southwest.


The Giant Kingfisher is monogamous and breeds solitarily. It is known for excavating long horizontal tunnels into river banks as nests, a task undertaken by both sexes.

Song & Calls

Its vocalization is a distinctive and loud "wak wak wak."


Breeding seasons vary by region: in South Africa, it occurs from September to January; in Zimbabwe, from August to March; in Zambia, during March and April; and in Liberia, from December to January. The species lays a clutch of around three eggs in a chamber at the end of the tunnel, which can be impressively long, with records of up to 8.5 m.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Giant Kingfisher consists mainly of crabs, fish, and frogs, which it catches by diving from a perch.

Conservation status

The Giant Kingfisher is currently classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating a stable population.

Giant Kingfisher Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Giant Kingfisher Fun Facts

Did you know?
Giant Kingfisher's nesting tunnel is usually 1.8 metres deep into a river bank.

Giant Kingfishers on Birda


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