Giant Kingfisher

©Karl Svendsen
Giant Kingfisher Male.
©Robert Hofmeyr
Giant Kingfisher Female.


Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima)

Megaceryle is a Greek word meaning “great kingfisher” and maxima is Latin for “the largest”. So in other words, translated from the scientific name, we have the “largest great kingfisher”.


The Giant Kingfisher is the biggest of the kingfishers, with an average length of 44 cm and dimorphic in colouration. The male has a rufous chest and a white belly, while the female has the opposite, a rufous belly and a white chest. The male has a rufous waistcoat and the female has a rufous skirt. The upper area of both sexes is black with white speckles.

Giant Kingfisher Diet

The Giant Kingfisher feeds mainly on fish, but will take crabs, frogs and small reptiles.

Giant Kingfisher Breeding

The Giant Kingfisher is monogamous. They nest in a tunnel that is excavated in a river bank. The tunnels vary between 1 and 7 m in length. 3 to 5 eggs are laid and incubated by both parents. The eggs hatch after an incubation period of around 26 days.

Giant Kingfisher Behaviour

The Giant Kingfisher hunts from a stationary position or perch over the water. It dives into the water from its perch and returns to its perch with its catch. The Giant Kingfisher often submerges itself when diving into the water. The catch is then beaten repeatedly against the perch to kill it, before it is swallowed whole, head first.


The Giant Kingfisher is considered as a pest by fish hatcheries.

Distribution and Habitat

In Southern Africa, the Giant Kingfisher is found mostly in the wetter western area. Its range is very close to water, with an ample supply of food, preferably with overhanging branches or perches used for hunting.