Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala)


French: Martin-chasseur à tête grise German: Graukopfliest Spanish: Alción cabeciblanco
Other common names: Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher

Alcedo leucocephala

Statius Müller

, 1776,



Closely related to H. pileata. Proposed race centralis (S shore of L Victoria) now included within nominate; ogilviei (Malawi) subsumed within pallidiventris. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. l. acteon (Lesson, 1830) – Cape Verde Is (Brava, Fogo, Santiago).
  • H. l. leucocephala (Statius Müller, 1776) – Senegambia E to Eritrea and Somalia, S to Gabon, NE DRCongo, L Victoria basin and N Tanzania.
  • H. l. semicaerulea (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – SW Arabia from Mecca S to Yemen and E to Oman (Taqa); possibly winters in Somalia.
  • H. l. hyacinthina Reichenow, 1900 – SE Ethiopia#R, SE Somalia, coastal Kenya and Tanzania (S to Dar es Salaam and W to Pare Mts and Kilosa).
  • H. l. pallidiventris Cabanis, 1880 – DRCongo and Tanzania (except N & E) S to N Namibia and NE South Africa; S populations migrate N to DRCongo, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
  • Descriptive notes

    22 cm; 35–61 g, males average 42 g, females 43 g. Small to medium-sized kingfisher with reddish belly. Male nominate race grey head, black lores, black back and wing-... read more


    Loud chattering trill, “trrrit-it-it-it-it”; loud “weep weep trrrr woop”,... read more


    Woodland, thickets, thornbush, riparian trees along watercourses, bushy grassland, parkland and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly insects, particularly grasshoppers and locusts (Orthoptera), and also crickets (Grylloidea), mole-crickets (Gryllotalpidae),... read more


    Season late Jul–Dec and Feb–May in Cape Verde Is, from Feb–Mar in Ivory Coast, May–Oct in Senegal, Gambia and Mali... read more


    Timing and extent of movements vary regionally. Cape Verde population and perhaps some in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Has wide distribution and uses a wide variety of open habitats. Generally common to fairly common throughout its range; a pair every 0·5... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. (2019). Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala). 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 17 November 2019).