Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

Brown-hooded Kingfisher (Halcyon albiventris)


French: Martin-chasseur à tête brune German: Braunkopfliest Spanish: Alción cabecipardo

Alcedo albiventris


, 1786,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


W populations described as separate race, hylophila, on basis of slightly darker coloration, but considered insufficiently distinct from prentissgrayi; population from S Somalia and NE Kenya described as race erlangeri, but apparently indistinguishable from orientalis. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. a. prentissgrayi Bowen, 1930 – E Gabon, S Congo, SW DRCongo and W Angola, and S Kenya and WC Tanzania to N Zambia.
  • H. a. orientalis W. K. H. Peters, 1868 – coastal lowlands from S Somalia to Mozambique, inland to Malawi, S Zambia, Zimbabwe, N Botswana and NE Namibia (Caprivi).
  • H. a. vociferans Clancey, 1952 – E Botswana E to S Mozambique, S to E South Africa (to Free State and KwaZulu-Natal).
  • H. a. albiventris (Scopoli, 1786) – KwaZulu-Natal to Western Cape Province; migrates to S Zimbabwe.
  • Also in NC Namibia, but subspecies uncertain#R.

    Descriptive notes

    22 cm; male 48–53 g, female 54–58 g. Small to medium-sized kingfisher. Male nominate race dark-streaked brown head, pale supercilium, whitish collar streaked,... read more


    Loud descending “kíeu ki-ki-ki-ki”, weak trilled “tiiiu” or “... read more


    Woodland, wooded grassland, scrub, forest clearings and edges, plantations, cultivation, parks and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly insects, especially locusts and grasshoppers (Orthoptera), crickets (Gryllacrididae), mantises (Mantodea), cockroaches (Blattodea),... read more


    Lays in Sept–Oct in SW Zaire and Angola; in Feb–Mar, Jun and Sept–Nov in Kenya and Tanzania; in Oct–Feb in Malawi... read more


    Most populations appear to be sedentary. South African race albiventris occurs in S... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread, and common or, at least, locally common in many parts of its range. This species’ wide distribution and its use of open habitats... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. (2020). Brown-hooded Kingfisher (Halcyon albiventris). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 February 2020).