Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

Malachite Kingfisher (Corythornis cristatus)


French: Martin-pêcheur huppé German: Haubenzwergfischer Spanish: Martín pescador malaquita
Other common names: African Malachite Kingfisher

Alcedo cristata


, 1764,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Previously placed in genus Alcedo. Recent molecular studies, however, indicate that this species (with thomensis and nais) is part of a clade of closely related species that includes also C. madagascariensis, C. leucogaster and C. vintsioides#R#R; C. cristatus and C. vintsioides appear to be sister-taxa, with C. leucogaster as sister to this pair#R. Often considered to include both C. thomensis and C. nais as races (see those taxa, below). Subspecific taxonomy has been somewhat disputed; races cyanostigma and longirostris have sometimes been lumped within nominate#R, e.g. in HBW; birds of Eritrea and neighbouring areas have been separated as stuartkeithi, but doubtfully distinct#R, and in any case the name cyanostigma would be applicable to this form; Botswana race previously listed as robertsi but, with transfer of species to Corythornis, name longirostris is no longer preoccupied. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. galeritus (Statius Müller, 1776) – Senegal E to Ghana and Togo#R.
  • C. c. cyanostigma (Rüppell, 1837) – Togo#R and Nigeria E to Ethiopia and Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya and S Somalia, and S to S Angola and N Namibia, Zambia, lowland E Zimbabwe, Mozambique and NE South Africa (coastal KwaZulu-Natal); perhaps also resident in Yemen#R.
  • C. c. longirostris Roberts, 1932 – N Botswana.
  • C. c. cristatus (Pallas, 1764) – upland Zimbabwe S to South Africa, and W to S Namibia.
  • Descriptive notes

    13 cm; 12–19 g. Both sexes of nominate race have rufous supraloral spot, long forehead and crown feathers forming crest banded with black and pale greenish-blue; white... read more


    Short, shrill, repeated “seek, seek” or “seek, seek, seek”; song, used in... read more


    Fresh waters, including marshes, dams, ponds, lakes, slow-flowing rivers, streams, tidal estuaries... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly aquatic animals, including small prawns and crabs, tadpoles and small frogs and fish, also water beetles (Dytiscidae), water boatmen... read more


    Lays in Apr–Dec in W Africa; in Jun–Oct in C Africa; in Mar, May, Jul, Oct and Nov in Uganda; in Apr–May, Jul, Oct and... read more


    Sedentary at some locations, e.g. L Naivasha, and one adult was retrapped at same locality after... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and often common, even locally abundant at times, throughout range; becomes less common at higher latitudes and altitudes. Local declines... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Malachite Kingfisher (Corythornis cristatus). 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).