Hello, Stalkers! This is the thirty-fifth installment of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors. There are only three more weeks until it’s officially autumn! Is anybody else counting down? Who is already starting to see signs of the approaching season change? Just a reminder to check in on our social media pages, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus to stay updated. We love to see what you like and watch you share Blair’s work with your friends! Also keep checking in on the website for updates and new offers!
You may start to see these birds migrate soon as their breeding grounds start to freeze over. The Belted Kingfisher is a large, water kingfisher. It is actually the only member of this group that can be found in the Northern United States and Canada. These birds breed near inland bodies of water or along the coasts of Canada, Alaska and the United States. Then when their water sources start to freeze over they migrate from the northern parts of their range down to the Southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. Oddly, these birds may stray far from land during this migration. They wander so widely that they sometimes show up in the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, the British Isles, Iceland and Greenland.
As you’ve probably deducted, these birds need access to bodies of water for feeding and nesting. So much so, that if the water doesn’t freeze around their breeding ground that they may not migrate. As long as they have access to fresh water and they prey that entails, they are happy. Their most common habitats are streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, estuaries and calm marine waters. You can see these birds perched on “watchpoints” near water. From here they will spot their prey and dive to catch it. Their diet mainly consists of fish, amphibians and small crustaceans, although they will also expand it to eat insects, small mammals and reptiles.
The Belted Kingfisher nests in a horizontal tunnel made in a riverbank or other bank near their water source. The completed burrow slants upward so that rainwater won’t collect inside. This tunnel and burrow are excavated by both parents. They take turns digging, with the males spending about twice as much time working as the females. The female will have a clutch of 5 – 8 eggs per brood and can have 1-2 broods per season.
Belted Kingfishers are medium-sized birds, with the females averaging slightly larger than the males. They are stocky and large headed. They have a shaggy crest and straight, thick, pointed bills. These birds have slate blue head, back and wings with a large white collar and white underparts. Males have a broad, blue band on the breast. Females also have this band and an additional broad, rusty brown band.
The Belted Kingfisher spends most of it’s time alone except for during the breeding season. These are territorial birds, both as couples and as individuals (mostly males but occasionally females). They have a loud, rattling call. Interestingly, these birds have both a place in history and in recent times. From allaboutbirds.org “Pleistocene fossils of Belted Kingfishers (to 600.000 years old) have been unearthed in Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas. The oldest known fossil in the kingfisher genus is 2 million years old, found in Alachua County, Florida.” More recently, the Kingfisher was depicted on the 1986 series of the Canadian $5 note.
Keep an eye out for these easily recognized birds as we approach their migration season! Also be sure to check out the Belted Kingfisher Photo Gallery!