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Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher by Pam Huntley, as heard on

Belted Kingfishers are easy to spot along waterways, perched on conspicuous branches or wires, ready to dive headfirst for their meal. Their call is a loud, dry rattle. They have a large head and bill with a small body and tiny feet. They are slate-blue on their backs and heads with a shaggy crest. Both male and female have blue breast bands but the female is a rare case among North American birds by being the more colorful, with a rusty belly band and flank.

The Belted Kingfisher lives alone except during nesting season when both male and female take on the amazing task of burrowing horizontally into a bank for their nest. They take turns carving it out with their bills and kicking the dirt behind them with their feet. The average tunnel length is three to seven feet and has been recorded at over fifteen feet. Excavation can take up to three weeks.

After the young fledge, or leave the nest, parents teach them to fish by dropping dead prey into the water for retrieval. Ten days later, they catch live food and are then forced away from their parentsí territory.

Kingfishers hunt from a perch or by hovering above water. The fish is caught with the bill; the kingfisher then returns to a perch where it beats the fish on a limb, then tosses it into the air and swallows it headfirst. They also eat tadpoles, crayfish, mussels, and young birds.

First published MCAS The Whistling Swan September 2011
Belted Kingfisher photo by Ron LeValley