Fancy flights

The pied kingfisher dives up to 19 meters to catch its prey.

Pied kingfisher (photo credit: Itsik Marom)
Pied kingfisher
(photo credit: Itsik Marom)
It is there for the fish. Focused on its target, it does not need to be colorful.
This black-and-white bird already stands out because most other birds are colorful – especially the males.
The pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) is one of the rare birds that are pure black and white.
It is also a very noisy bird – when it is excited, it sends out high-pitched calls to those around it.
The pied kingfisher is around 30 centimeters long and weighs less than 100 grams. It is amazing to realize how little birds weigh, although that is one of the basic reasons they are able to fly. As a hunter, being light is even more important.
After locating its potential prey, the kingfisher hovers in the air over the water, maintaining its position. With its eyes fixed on the water below, when a suitably sized fish presents itself, the hovering bird dives up to 19 meters. Beak first, the kingfisher catches its prey.
As you can imagine, it is hard to catch a slippery fish. The pied kingfisher has only a 10 percent success rate. When it catches a fish, it carries it to a safe perch, hits it against a hard surface to make sure the fish is dead and then swallows it whole, head first. If it turns out to be a small fish, the kingfisher returns to the water to hunt for more. Catching a big fish allows it to rest for a while.
Being a social bird, the kingfisher is usually not alone. The male and female as a couple protect their territory, mating and raising their chicks from March to July.
Their nest is a burrow in a suitable site in a bank wall close to the water. Raising chicks is always a tremendous effort.
Usually there are four very hungry chicks that demand food in vast quantities. The parents do not have time to do anything else but catch small fish to feed their young.
An interesting phenomenon occurs in this species. Twice as many males hatch from the eggs than females, which eventually results in extra males that cannot find a female with which to breed. These males become helpers to breeding couples that have problems feeding all their chicks. This behavior helps the species in general but also gives a chance for the male helper to breed during the next breeding season with the female he had previously assisted.