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Belted Kingfisher Notecard



Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Ranging over most of the United Stated and Canada as far north as Alaska, the kingfisher lives wherever there is water: seacoasts, brooks, creeks, lakes, ponds, or mountain streams. Kingfisher are one of the few birds where the female is more colorful than the male; she has rufous flanks and a band of chestnut across her belly.

The kingfisher utters a loud, penetrating rattle as it follows the course of a waterway. Flying well below tree tops with a peculiar, uneven wingbeat, it patrols a stream or lakeshore, stopping at favorite perches from which it watches for prey. Small fish form the majority of its diet, but kingfishers also feed on frogs, crayfish and insects. The kingfisher may dive from a perch or hover 20 to 40 feet above water with rapidly beating wings, preparing for its plunge. It may execute a shallow dive, dipping its head below the surface of the water, or may disappear underwater for several seconds. After seizing a fish, it returns to a perch where it beats the fish on a limb, tosses it into the air, and swallows it headfirst.

Kingfishers nest in sand or gravel banks. Both members of a mated pair excavate a horizontal tunnel up to seven feet long, digging with the feet and bills. This may take up to three weeks depending on soil conditions. Nests may be some distance from water; the presence of suitable banks is the limiting factor.

artwork and text by Steve Sierigk (c) 1986