The KING 6

Bird Watching Birding Kingfishers

Many people come to game reserves to find “The Big 5” and forget the other sometimes more impressive or beautiful little creatures out there. SIBUYA is lucky enough to be home to what I call “The King 6”.

There are 10 KINGFISHER SPECIES found in Southern Africa and 6 of these we find on our part of the estuarine system that flows right through SIBUYA GAME RESERVE. Luckily, the Kariega River is in pristine condition and therefore supports many kinds of fish and crustacean species which allows for us to have a large variety of water birds and other aquatic animals such as the CAPE CLAWLESS OTTER (Aonyx capensis).

Many guests have had the chance of spotting ”The King 6” on the boat cruises or just relaxing at camp on the river. Those with a camera have lots of fun trying to capture ”that ultimate shot” of these striking, brilliantly coloured irridescent blue, orange, chestnut, or black and white birds. An interesting fact about the nesting habits of KINGFISHERS is that they excavate their own tunnels in sandy banks and then line the nesting chamber at the end with the bones, scales or carapaces of their prey.


The Brilliantly coloured Pygmy


and the less colourful Brown-Hooded Kingfishers

Like the name suggests, one would think that the KINGFISHERS are master fishermen but what many people don’t know, is that not all kingfishers eat fish! The non-aquatic AFRICAN PYGMY KINGFISHER (Ispidina picta)… a brilliantly coloured intra-African migrant, is  found mostly far from water as it prefers woodland or forested areas and  feeds mostly on insects, spiders, frogs and lizards.The BROWN-HOODED KINGFISHER (Halcyon albiventris) survives almost completely on insects, small snakes and lizards.


A Giant Kingfisher captures a baby terrapin


and a female Pied Kingfisher

A fish-eating species found on the reserve is the shy black, white and chestnut GIANT KINGFISHER (Megaceryle maximus), by far the largest at 43-46cm, in contrast to the tiny Pygmy… like the name states, only being about  12cm high.

The most common of the species found here, is the master fisherman, the PIED KINGFISHER (Ceryle rudis) with its beautiful black and white colouration. It is frequently seen hovering over the water before making a splendid dive for its lunch and then slapping its catch around on a convenient rock to kill it or tenderize it before gobbling it down. The male Pied is easily distinguished from the female with his black vest and underline, whereas the female only wears a black bra (two black spots on the shoulder).


The brilliantly coloured Malachite


and Half-Collared Kingfishers

The last two species are my favourite, the brilliant iridescent turquoise-blue of the HALF-COLLARED KINGFISHER (Alcedo semitorquata) and the MALACHITE KINGFISHER (Alcedo cristata) with its red bill are superb sightings along the estuary. As a photographer, I have lots of fun chasing them up and down the river to get that perfect shot!  I’ve included my best photo of each… hope you enjoy the beauty of these birds as much as I do!



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