Every time we drive trough the spectacular Sterkstoom valley and cross the many low level bridges over the pristine river we hope to see this shy and near- threatened little Kingfisher. Clear and unpopulated streams like this, with lots of rapids and vegetation on the banks is the ideal habitat for this remarkable little fellow, the Half-collared Kingfisher (Alcedo semitorquata).
On some occasions we have spotted a brightly coloured blue bird flying low over the Sterkstroom but were never able to positively identify it as the Half-Collared Kingfisher or take an identification picture. The speed at which these little birds fly along the river course makes it difficult to positively distinguish it from the other blue coloured Kingfishers.
Over this past weekend we were treated to a beautiful sighting of an individual static for long enough to get a few photographs for the record.
While the Half-Collared Kingfisher can be confused with the Malachite Kingfisher the cobalt blue head and and black bill are diagnostic. Their diet mainly includes fish, crabs and aquatic insects. They are monogamous and nest in burrows that they excavate into vertical stream banks. Believe it or not it is said that the chamber of these burrows are lined with fish bones which are used as the nesting material.
While the Half Collared Kingfisher distribution is quite wide, it is not common and the destruction of habitat, the lack unpolluted rivers, lakes and adjacent vegetation contributes to it's near-threatened status.
In Dutch this little blue Kingfisher is descriptively known as "Kobaltijsvogel".