The Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher

Megaceryle alcyon

The Belted/Banded Kingfisher is native to North and Central America. Other species of Kingfishers are found in other continents around the world. The Belted Kingfisher lives near streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, reservoirs and the Great Swamp. They migrate to warm places during cold weather, if the water is frozen cutting off their food supply.

The Kingfisher has a long, strong, sharp, black beak.  It is like a dagger and is used for spearing fish and other prey. They are very colorful birds. They have a large, bluish-gray head with a shaggy crest and a white necklace on their neck and blue band across the chest. The female has a second reddish brown band on the chest. The back feathers and wings are bluish-gray with black tips and white dots. They are a stocky medium sized bird with short legs. They are about 11 to 13” in length, with a wingspan of 19 to 23” and weigh 5 to 6 oz. The female is slightly larger and more colorful than the male. In most species the male is more colorful. They make loud, rattling, screeching sounds.

Belted Kingfishers spend most of their time alone until mating season when the male seeks a mate. The pair remains together for the mating season. They form new pairs each year. It is usually the male, but sometimes the female who establishes a territory along the shoreline where they build their nest. They defend their territory by flying back and forth rattling noisily or sitting on their perch puffing up their chest while rattling.

It takes both parents to dig a tunnel and build their nest into banks next to the water. The tunnel may be 3 to 8 feet long and slope uphill to prevent flooding. There is a larger area at the end of the tunnel where the nest is built. It takes them 3 to 7 days to build the nest. Eggs are laid from November through February.

There can be 2 broods per season. Five to 8 eggs are laid, they are about 1,5” in length and they are shiny and pure white. The incubation period is 22 to 24 days. The babies are in the nest for about 24 days. They are full grown at 1 year old. Their lifespan is 6 to 10 years.                                                                                                                                                     

Their diet is made up of mostly small fish and crayfish. But they will eat mice, insects, amphibians, reptiles and small crustaceans. They sit on perches watching for prey then plunge head first into the water to spear the fish. They also have the ability to hover over the water like a helicopter. They are excellent fishermen! While nestlings in the nest they can digest the scales and bones, when they leave the nest they begin regurgitating the pellets.

Their predators are hawks, mammals and snakes.

The Belted Kingfisher is symbol of peace and prosperity

Conservation Status: Least Concern

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