Belted Kingfisher: This medium-sized bird has a bushy crest, white collar and large, black dagger-like bill. It has blue-gray upperparts, white underparts and gray legs and feet. Males have one blue band across the white breast, while females have a blue and chestnut band. It hovers above water to search for prey such as crayfish and frogs. Slow direct flight with an erratic pattern.
Range and Habitat
Belted Kingfisher: Breeds from Alaska eastward across southern Canada and south throughout most of U.S. Spends winters on the Pacific coast north to southeastern Alaska, and throughout the south, north to the Great Lakes and along the Atlantic coast to New England. Preferred habitats include rivers, lakes, and saltwater estuaries.
The taxonomic order CORACIIFORMES (pronounced ko-rah-kee-ih-FOR-meez) is composed of six families of colorful birds such as the motmots, rollers, todies, and kingfishers.
The Alcedinidae (pronounced al-she-DIN-uh-dee) is composed of ninety-five species of kingfishers in eighteen genera found on most continents and many Pacific Islands.
Six species of kingfishers in two genera occur in North America. These include the widespread Belted Kingfisher, the diminutive Green Kingfisher, and the large billed Ringed Kingfisher.
Like most other members of its family, the Belted Kingfisher is known for its fishing behavior and loud rattling call that is an auditory component of lakes and rivers throughout North America.
Although kingfishers in North America can be as small as a thrush or larger than a pigeon, they are all similarly shaped with medium length tails, medium length pointed wings, and a large, crested head. The bills of kingfishers are heavy and look oversized, while their legs are short with small toes, the outer two joined almost to the end (a trait shared by other members of the Coraciiformes).
While many kingfishers in other parts of the world are brilliantly colored in glittering blues, orange and red, the North American species have duller plumages of slate gray, rufous, white, and jade green.
The widespread Belted Kingfisher is found throughout North America except for the tundra of the far north. Other species have mostly tropical distributions, with just two others occurring in the United States in southern Texas. All three species in the United States utilize aquatic habitats such as lakes, rivers, streams, and estuaries.
The Belted Kingfisher undertakes both short and long distance migrations to the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America.
Outside of the breeding season kingfishers are solitary birds that forage alone. They have a very distinctive manner of foraging for fish by diving head first into the water. While the smaller Green Kingfisher often does this from a perch, the Belted and Ringed Kingfishers typically hover above the water to watch for prey. Like other Coraciiformes, kingfishers nest in tunnels dug into the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes.
In North America, kingfishers are fairly common, non-threatened bird species.
Kingfishers are birds quite adapted to their aquatic habitats, their eyes having specially adapted lenses for focusing both in and out of the water. They also won’t hesitate to dive into the water to escape a predator.