Blue-belted dive bomber

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.

Belted Kingfisher (female?)

Belted Kingfisher (female?).  I’m guessing it’s a female based on the presence of rusty brown breast feathers, which the male does not have.

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.

Hmm... nothing of interest here, I might as well leave.

Hmm… nothing of interest here, I might as well leave.

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.

7 thoughts on “Blue-belted dive bomber

  1. The Belted Kingfisher is one of my favorite birds. From what I’ve read, they stay in their breeding territory in winter as long as they can find the open water they need for fishing. An amazing thing about kingfishers is their third eyelid that closes over their eyes so they can dive underwater. They are one of those birds that you usually hear before you see them (if you see them at all).

    • Which is exactly what happened the other day — I heard the rattle call and looked around just as the bird was landing. It’s one of my favorite birds too, and I don’t see them very often.

  2. Last year I too discovered the belted kingfisher here in Boston. It was so thrilling to see it – I had also thought that kingfishers were only found in more southern climes. They’re so small and dear, and also a little bit comical for their wonderful heads.

    • They do seem a little top-heavy, don’t they? It’s the enormous bill and big crest of feathers on the head, I think. Thanks for writing, Jenny.

  3. Nice shots, Sue. I was thrilled recently when I managed to see a female Belted Kingfisher and got some photos from a distance. I love the way they look and I am hoping that this female remains at the same little lake where I saw her.

    • I think they do tend to stick around in the same areas for much of the year, as long as there is open water and ample food, so maybe you’ll be able to find that female again. I’m not sure whether the female or the male controls the territory, because they seek new breeding partners each year.

      • The location is a lake (pond) that is stocked with trout, so I’m thinking that there will continue to be food. The problem for me is getting close enough to where she hangs out. Fortunately the rattling sound makes it a little easier for me to know if she is around.

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