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Belted Kingfisher belted kingfisher

Identification and Pictures

(Megaceryle alcyon)belted kingfisher

Belted Kingfishers are easy to identify with their large head, bushy crest, and large black bill.  They are stocky, noisy fishing birds, 11 to 14 1/2 inches.  Their plumage is blue gray above with a large white collar, a broad gray breast band, and white under parts.  They have a small white spot by each eye.  Females have rusty a band that goes across the breast, and down the sides, making Kingfishers one of the few birds where the female is more colorful than the male.  Juvenile males will have a mottled rusty band, and young females have a rusty band that is not as pronounced as it is in the adults.

They are often seen hovering in the air with rapid beating wings, as they prepare to dive into the water for a fish.  They can be recognized in flight by their deep uneven wing beats. 

    belted kingfisher

Photo by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

In 1986 Canada ran the Birds of Canada series on their currency.  The Kingfisher was on the 5 dollar bill. 





The voice of the Kingfisher is a loud high rattle.  They often give this as they take off or prepare to dive into water.  Sound

Preferred Habitat

Belted Kingfishers range extends across North America.  Northern populations migrate south.  In warmer climates the birds are resident all year.  They can be found around bodies of water such as rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, or coast line.

Breeding and Nesting

After the male establishes a territory he sings mewing songs to attract a mate.  During courtship he will catch fish to feed her.  Pairs once formed are monogamous.  A typical nest is a burrow in a river bank excavated by both sexes.  In addition to their large bill, they are aided in their digging by two of their toes that are fused together providing them with a built in shovel.  During excavation the two birds will constantly rattle to each other.  The burrow will slope up hill, leaving an air pocket for the young incase of flooding.  Females usually lay 5 to 8 white eggs which are incubated by both birds for about 3 weeks.  Both adults will take care of the young birds which will fledge in about 4 weeks.  The young birds will stay with, and be fed by the parents for about 3 more weeks.


The main diet of Kingfishers is fish however they also eat other aquatic life such as frogs, crayfish, snails, tadpoles, and insects.  They like to perch above clear water so they can dive when they see their prey.  Often they will hover in the air with rapidly beating wings, plunging into the water when they see a fish.  

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