Grey-headed kingfisher

(Halcyon leucocephala)


Grey-headed kingfisher IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The grey-headed (or greyhooded) kingfisher is a medium-sized kingfisher species, reaching a total length of about 20-22 cm. It is thus a bit smaller than the sympatric woodland (H. senegalensis) and brownhooded (H. albiventris) kingfishers. Females weigh 57 g, males 46 g.

The plumage is blackish-brown on the back, and grey on the head. The belly is chestnut shading to tawny and white on breast, and flight feathers, rump and tail are bright lt or violet-blue.

The iris is dark brown, bill and feet are scarlet.


Breeding takes place from September to December. Both male and female participate in excavating a horizontal tube of 50 cm to 1 m length into an earth bank, using their strong bill and feet. The female lays on average 4 pinkish-white eggs into the nest chamber at the end of the tube, which are incubated by both parents for about two weeks. The young fledge after about 3 weeks.

The grey-headed kingfisher feeds on beetles and grasshoppers, occasionally small lizards, which are taken on the ground.

Did you know?
that kingfishers have a variety of calls used to announce their territory, warn off other birds, and communicate with a mate and their chicks, such as shrieks, screams, clicks, whistles, chuckles, rattles, and chirps?


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Halcyon leucocephala
Name (English) Grey-headed kingfisher
Name (French) Martin-chasseur à tête grise
Name (German) Graukopfliest
Name (Spanish) Alción Cabeciblanco, Alción de Cabeza Gris
Local names Afrikaans: Gryskop-visvanger
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Valerie Abbott



Range Subsaharan Africa: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Congo DR, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland; Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe Arabian peninsula: Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
Habitat Brachystegia and other woodlands, bushveld, parkland and cultivated areas, along dry river courses.
Wild population No global data available
Zoo population 8 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Grey-headed kingfisher


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 11F of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Tom Tarrant

Why do zoos keep this animal

The grey-headed kingfisher is not a threatened species. Zoos keep it primarily for educational reasons, e.g. in the context of mixed African woodland or riverine exhibits.