Belted Kingfisher

So kingfishers are notoriously secretive birds, so I was very lucky to get a couple of pictures of a belted kingfisher up at Boomer Lake about a year and a half ago (so during fall of 2019). While they aren’t the best pictures of a kingfisher–they’re currently the ones I have, plus I hadn’t been expecting to see a kingfisher up at Boomer Lake.

Belted Kingfisher seen at Boomer Lake

The belted kingfisher is roughly the size of a stocky robin, with a large head, thick bill, short legs, and a squared-tipped tail.

They are mainly blue-gray and white in coloring. Unlike other species, it is actually the female that has more coloring than the male. The male will have a basic blue band across their breast, while the female will have an additional rusty colored band across their bellies in addition to the blue band at the breast.

Belted Kingfisher

Since I only managed to get the kingfisher profile from the back–I have no idea of I got a picture of the male or female.

The belted kingfisher is the only ‘common’ kingfisher in North America. It summers in Alaska, Canada, and parts of several northern states. It can also be found year-round in majority of the United States, and in some states it can also be considered a ‘winter’ resident (for example: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Louisiana, Utah, and Florida).

Belted Kingfisher range map. Map (c) birds of the world

These are kingfishers that feed on mainly fish, so they will nest near bodies of water (such as streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes). They will burrow into the banks along the water, avoiding areas that have large number of trees (as the roots get in the way of digging). They will have the entrance of the burrow high enough in the bank that there is little to no risk of the burrow being flooded during heavy rains.

In terms of where to spot them–you’re more likely to hear them before you see them, but look around different bodies of water for them to be perched watching the water for their next meal. You may also see them during migration, as the ones that breed in Alaska, Canada, and the northern states need to move to warmer climates during the winter to ensure that they’re able to hunt on unfrozen bodies of water.

Belted Kingfisher in flight at dawn

Belted kingfishers mainly eat fish (such as sticklebacks, trout, and stonerollers; but it is dependent on the type of fish that are present in the waters–so some areas may be more sunfish than say sticklebacks), but will also eat crustaceans, amphibians, small reptiles, insects, and mollusks.

Since they dive into the water after their prey–the water needs to be fairly clear for them to be able to spot the fish, so you may also spot them hovering over the water before diving in after the fish.

Here are some other notes about the belted kingfisher:

Their territory during breeding season can average half a mile in length, which the pair will defend against other kingfishers.

The acidity in their stomach changes as the bird ages–the nestlings have a more acidic stomach allowing them to digest teh various bones, scales, and shells of the food that the parents bring back. When they leave the nest, their stomachs aren’t as ascidic so they will start to regurgitate the pellets around their perches.

Collecting these pellets allow scientists to see what the diet of belted kingfishers are without having to ‘trap’ any birds.

Photography goals for the belted kingfisher include: getting a better picture of one in flight, and perched on a branch. Bonus would be if I could also get a picture of one diving into (or out of) the water, or hovering above the water.