The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Coraciiformes
Gray-Headed Kingfisher

(aka grey-headed kingfisher) Halcyon leucocephala

gray-headed kingfisher


This colorful bird is about 7 inches long. It has a gray head, white breast and chest, cobalt back, chestnut belly, and bright blue flight feathers, rump, and tail. The straight dagger-shaped bill and feet are bright scarlet. Both sexes are similarly colored, but immature birds tend to be duller and have a blackish bill and dark barring across the chest.

Distribution and Habitat

The gray-headed kingfisher is common throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa. It inhabits a variety of woodland and savannah habitats, but is most commonly found along rivers and streams.


Despite its name, this kingfisher feeds on a variety of insects, as well as the occasional small lizard. It generally sits still on a perch, before diving steeply down to the ground in pursuit of prey.


Gray-headed kingfishers are believed to mate for life. Breeding takes place from September to December. Both sexes work to excavate a tunnel up to 3 feet long into a riverbank, gully or termite mound, into which 3-4 pinkish-white eggs are laid. The eggs are incubated by both parents for about 20 days, and both parents take care of the offspring until they fledge at about one month.

Other Information

Gray-headed kingfishers are extremely territorial, and will chase off any trespassers.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Coraciiformes
genus & species Halcyon leucocephala

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This page was last updated on July 14, 2017.