Wednesday, January 9, 2013


© Dave Spier
There are two requirements for finding kingfishers in winter: open water and an overhanging perch, usually a tree branch. The bird's main diet is small fish retrieved by diving into the water. In warmer weather, crayfish are on the menu.

The Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon, appears big-headed, but it's due mostly to feathers that fan into a double crest. The color is bluish-gray like its back, wing tops, and a wide "necklace." In contrast there is a white collar, belly and underwings. Females have an additional tan belly-band and flanks (sides), which might add a touch of camouflage. The kingfisher's bill is heron-like, possibly the result of convergent evolution resulting from the same prey items.

Unless you're anticipating a kingfisher, chances are your first clue to its presence is the loud "rattling" call as it flies away. You can listen to a recording of this sound on the All About Birds website, which also has a range map and information on behavior, habitats and summer nesting. (Kingfishers dig a tunnel into sand banks or muddy stream banks to hide their nest. The deepest can be eight feet long.)

The interactive eBird range map indicates that Belted Kingfishers have been recorded in all 50 states plus much of Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Nearly a hundred other kingfisher species are found in mainly tropical regions around the world.

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