There are 7 species of Kingfishers that may be observed in and around Areena Riverside Resort. We will start our Birders Corner articles on Kingfishers with the largest, and loudest, of these very industrious birds by being able to identify male from female. The frontal plumage of the Giant Kingfisher is reversed between the male and female. Where the male has a bright rufous colouring on the chest and stripes on the throat and lower under parts, the female has rufous lower under parts and stripes on the chest and throat.
Sexes may also be told apart when in flight, the male has white underwing colouring while the female is rufous in colour.
These birds may be found where water is present, both inland and at coastal pools. They have to work very hard for their daily dietary intake which mainly consists of fish that may be supplemented by crabs, frogs and other aquatic invertebrates. They hunt fish by hovering, in a stationary position, over the water and when a suitable meal is spotted, they fold their wings and dive into the water to catch the prey with an open beak. The live fish is then beaten against a solid object until it is dead before being swallowed. Crabs, on the other hand, are swallowed whole if small enough, while larger ones are dismembered before swallowing.
A hole between 1 and 3 metres deep is dug into the vertical bank of a river by both prospective parents. The nest is very often concealed behind some form of vegetation covering the river bank. Three to four eggs are laid and parents share the 3 week incubation period with regular changeovers. The chamber at the end of the nest in which the young develop, is not the most hygienic of places becoming fouled with food, feathers and excrement. It is for this reason that, at most, only two of the young birds survive to leave the nest 5 weeks after hatching. Both parents feed the young birds for the next 3 weeks, after which they are left to fend for themselves.
Both male and female birds make loud and noisy calls which may be a single, harsh, loud kek, or a 3 note kakh-kakh-kakh decending in order. A single kek call repeated fast and loud is used as a greeting by either bird when returning to the nesting site after foraging.