My Bantam Lake

Belted Kingfisher

Written on 06/10/2018

Megaceryle alcyon

Belted Kingfishers are stocky, large-headed birds with a shaggy crest on the top and back of the head and a straight, thick, pointed bill. Their legs are short and their tails are medium length and square-tipped. They measure between 28 and 35 centimeters in length and 48 and 58 centimeters in wingspan. Belted Kingfishers are powder blue above with a fine, white spotting on the wings and tail. The underparts are white with a broad, blue breast band. Females also have a broad rusty band on their bellies. Juveniles show irregular rusty spotting in the breast band. These birds spend much of their time perched alone along the edges of streams, lakes, and estuaries all across North America, searching for small fish. They also fly quickly up and down rivers and shorelines making loud, rattling calls. They hunt either by plunging directly from a perch or by hovering over the water, bill downward, before diving after a fish they've spotted. They nest in burrows that they dig into soft earthen banks, usually adjacent to or directly over water, and spend winters in areas where the water doesn't freeze so that they have continual access to their aquatic foods. The Belted Kingfisher is of low conservation concern.

Fun facts:

  • The Belted Kingfisher is one of the few bird species in which the female is more brightly colored than the male.
  • During breeding season the Belted Kingfisher pair defends a territory against other kingfishers. A territory along a stream includes just the streambed and the vegetation along it, and averages 0.6 miles long.
  • The oldest known fossil in the kingfisher genus is 2 million years old, found in Alachua County, Florida.


Source: Belted Kingfisher Overview and Identification Information, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology