Kingfishers are colourful and interesting, and it is always exciting to hold one in the hand. Catching them also provides valuable data, and here longevity data will be highlighted (data that can only reliably be obtained from ringing efforts).
Number of ringed kingfishers
There are 10 species in southern Africa, and the greatest longevity record is nearly 10 years, for a Woodland Kingfisher, followed closely by Brown-hooded and Giant Kingfishers both over 8 years. The most ringed kingfisher species is the Malachite Kingfisher, followed by Brown-hooded Kingfisher and African Pygmy Kingfisher, all species with over 2500 individuals ringed. The other kingfishers have less than 900 ringed each, with the rarer Mangrove Kingfisher at only 11 ringed. No Mangrove Kingfishers have been recaptured nor found dead, so this kingfisher has no longevity record.
The longevity for the African Pygmy Kingfisher is not high, being close to 4 years. Partly this could be due to it being an intra-African migrant, and it is not retrapped often. The greatest distance moved for this species (based on ringing data) is 433 km, between Durban and East London. Kingfishers in Europe have reached an age of 21 years, which is substantially more than records for African kingfishers, possibly due to more ringing in Europe and greater efforts to recapture these birds. This shows that there is potential for much greater longevities in our kingfishers, especially as African birds usually reach higher ages than similar species in Europe.
Most recaptures of a kingfisher
One of the kingfishers with the most number of recaptures was bird E16147 (Figure below), ringed as an adult along the Ottery River in Cape Town, and recaptured 11 times thereafter, and becoming the oldest known Malachite Kingfisher. Unfortunately the ringing site was abandoned after the site deteriorated (dumping of rubble, and other factors), else the longevity record may have been a few years more by now (if the same bird was still alive and being caught). This also highlights the threat of habitat loss to kingfishers, and Malachite Kingfishers are sadly declining in southern Africa.
Table 1. Longevity records for the southern African kingfisher species
|Sp no.||English||Latin||Ringed / resight / recovered||Longevity||Ring no.||Notes|
|394||Pied Kingfisher||Ceryle rudis||509 / 24 / 3||5y 10m 26d||423533|
|395||Giant Kingfisher||Ceryle maxima||268 / 41 / 8||8y 0m 2d||PA04160|
|396||Half-collared Kingfisher||Alcedo semitorquata||231 / 39 / 1||4y 0m 15d||E31580|
|397||Malachite Kingfisher||Alcedo cristata||3695 / 614 / 19||6y 4m 23d||E16147|
|398||African Pygmy-Kingfisher||Ispidina picta||2543 / 194 / 13||3y 10m 17d||Y00280|
|399||Woodland Kingfisher||Halcyon senegalensis||893 / 109 / 3||9y 10m 18d||4A46335||new|
|400||Mangrove Kingfisher||Halcyon senegaloides||11 / 0 / 0||n/a|
|401||Grey-hooded Kingfisher||Halcyon leucocephala||390 / 23 / 2||4y 11m 21d||4A39419|
|402||Brown-hooded Kingfisher||Halcyon albiventris||3092 / 651 / 25||8y 10m 15d||E44060|
|403||Striped Kingfisher||Halcyon chelicuti||202 / 16 / 2||3y 6m 21d||E07527|
The longevity record for Woodland Kingfisher was 8 years, but in 2019 a new record was established (see table above). Several non-South African kingfisher species have been ringed in small numbers in Africa, but with no important recaptures in the SAFRING database yet.
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