I was surprised to find a Belted Kingfisher swooping over the creek during my walk yesterday. She (?) announced herself with the staccato “rattle” call as she traversed the length of the creek and landed high in a tree on the opposite shore.
Unfortunately, the bird made no further foraging attempts and turned right around and flew off back down the entire length of the creek. Maybe next time.
I didn’t realize Belted Kingfishers could over-winter this far north, and have not really ever looked for them. Apparently, they stick around all year where there is open water and a reliable source of food.
There are over 90 species of kingfishers worldwide, but only 3 that inhabit North America, north of Mexico. Belted Kingfishers, however, are the only species found north of Texas, and their range extends throughout the US into Canada and Alaska, where they are commonly found “fishing” along streams and pools.
They often hunt from a perch overhanging the stream, making their distinctive call as they fly out over the water, but their flight maneuvers are quick and unpredictable, making them a challenge to photograph. A quick dart out from the perch, dive, splash, and then back up to the tree; the over-sized bill is adept at grabbing both fish and crustaceans out of the water. This pigeon-sized fisher-bird needs about 65 grams of fish daily to keep itself fit — that’s about 2.5 ounces, or roughly 3 average sized minnows.
Here’s a good video of what to expect from a Belted Kingfisher.