Day 37 of 100 Days of Blogging

The Belted Kingfisher, with its snazzy looking crested head, belted clothing accessory-like markings and aerobatic diving abilities is hard to mistake for another bird,and a fun to watch. He is found across North America in the summer, on the PQSPB checklist and this week’s totally cool fish eating bird!

Early Birder Fishy Friday Profile #5

The Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
Family: Alcedinidae   French: Martin-pêcheur d’Amérique

#1. Kingfishers are fun to watch with their aerobatic antics as they hover over the water hummingbird style looking for fish, then dive head first into the water to snatch their prey with a dagger like bill.  It may also take a more leisurely approach and observe the water from a perch before plunging after its prey.

#2. Once the Kingfisher has captured a fish, it flies back to a perch. Since fish are rather slippery, it first wacks its catch sideways against the tree or whatever it is sitting on. Presumably this stuns the fish and makes it easier to manoeuvre and eat.

#3. Kingfishers can be seen foraging throughout the day, They are very territorial and will voice their displeasure at the slightest disturbance. So it is likely to be heard before you ever see it. 

#4. Kingfishers are sexually dimorphic and decked out with really nice accessories to complement their plumage and stylish crest . The female, like the male, has a bandanna-scarf shaped band around her neck and also sports a rufous belt around her midsection. (If you prefer, In scientific parlance that would be “dichromatic pectoral bands on white underparts” and the female displays “rufous sides and rufous band across the lower breast”.) Frankly, I find clothing accessories easier to visualize! 

These birds are abundant where earthen banks suitable for excavation of burrows are available. Nests are created at the end of  tunnels excavated by both parents. Excavation generally takes 3-7 days, but may take up to three weeks in some circumstance.

#6. The nest cavity is not usually lined. However, the Kingfisher has a rather “messy” housekeeping style and doesn’t remove all those coughed up pellets containing undigested fish bones, and it adds up after a while. The regurgitated mess does have a useful purpose though, as it provides some insulation between the incubating eggs and the earthen floor. 

#7. Parents share the 2-24 day incubation period; the female sits all night then the male takes her place in the early morning.

#8. Once hatched, feeding a nestling requires on average some 8 fish per day per bird, and more during the peak growth time. Total nesting time is about 27-29 days before the fledglings leave the burrow.  

#9. Diet consists of shallow water fish, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, reptiles young birds, small mammals. For a sweet alternative, the Kingfisher will occasionally eats berries!

#10. The Kingfisher inhabits areas close to rivers, lakes and estuaries. Breeds from Alaska eastward across southern Canada and south throughout most of the US . Winters on the Pacific coast down from southern Alaska, from the Great Lakes southward through the southern state, and found along the Atlantic coast south of New England. Some northern populations winter as far as Central America, the West Indies and northern South America.