I spent a couple of hours tromping around Rice Creek after those pesky Belted Kingfishers yesterday, but they always saw me coming from quite a distance away. So, I had to resort to some serious photoediting to get something moderately useful for the blog.
This seems to be a favorite spot of this male Belted Kingfisher (no rusty brown belly-band beneath his slate blue collar indicates his sex), as I have found him perched here several times now This is one of the few species in which the female is actually the more colorful.
Belted Kingfishers might stay all year in MN, but only where there is open water. A pair will maintain a territory along a stream, nesting in the cut of the riverbank where they excavate a long tunnel for their nest. I’m not sure there is sufficient height in the bank of this creek to allow them to nest here though.
Downstream about 1/2 mile from the site where I found this male was another kingfisher, a female that also had a preferred perch site on a beautiful snag overlooking the creek. Having missed the perfect shot of her on this perch, I had to settle for her silhouette in the tree where she teased me by rattling the familiar kingfisher call over and over.
With their big head and oversized bill, these birds look sort of top-heavy. However, they capture a wide variety of stream critters with their big bill-pincer, including fish (mostly minnows), amphibians, crayfish, molluscs, insects, even some small mammals. Unlike the diving ducks, kingfishers close their eyes as they enter the water, diving blind toward prey they have visualized from above. But they have surprising success.
Now that I know where they hang out, I’ll keep trying to sneak up on them for some better portraits. In the meantime, have a look at Sparky Stensaas’ clever method for capturing kingfishers close-up. At the end of the video, he has some good suggestions for setting up the camera for wildlife photography.