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Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher
The Belted Kingfisher is an extremely shy bird. Trying to photograph this bird takes a lot of patience and a good hiding spot.

If you know where it perches, that might be the place to try and get a photo. Some people use a motion activated camera. Placing the camera where they know the bird feeds.

It always seems that when I'm out birdwatching, I'll hear this bird before I see it. And by the time I see it, it's moving on.

This bird prefers to live most of the year as a loner, until the mating and nesting season begins.

During this breeding and nesting time, a mated pair will work together as a team during all phases, including constuction of the nest site, incubation, and raising their young.

Description

Measuring 11 to 14 inches in length. A large blue bird with a long thick black bill. Blue-gray above and on head. Noticeable crest on the head. A white spot in front of red brown eyes.

The male has a blue-gray band across the breast. One of very few species where the female has more color than the male. In this case, the female has the same blue-gray band as the male but sports a second, rust colored band across her belly.

Nesting Habits

The Belted Kingfisher always lives near water: streams, rivers, and lakes, are where you're likely to find nest sites. They begin building their nest by taking turns digging a tunnel into an earthen bank near their fishing territory.

Using their bills to dig a tunnel and their feet to push dirt and debris out behind them. The tunnel will be 3 to 7 feet long when completed and the eggs will be laid in total darkness.

The area of the nest site itself is about 10 - 12 inches in diamerter and is domed. Both male and female will share in the incubation.

Incubation will last for 24 days. The young will be born without feathers and be brooded by the female, while the male feeds the young and the female. Once the chicks begin to get feathers, both male and female will feed them.

The young will leave the nest about 33 to 38 days after hatching. Within 1 - 2 weeks the young will be able to feed themselves and will begin looking for their own territories.

If the nest isn't disturb by outside influences, the pair will reuse the nest from season to season.

Feeding Habits

Often seen hoovering over a body of water and then suddenly diving head first in pursuit of fish. Their diet consist mostly of small fish. Other food they eat includes tadpoles, salamanders, frogs, and some insects.

An interesting behavior with this bird is how it eats. After diving for a fish it will return to its perch and begins to beat the food against the limb or whatever it's perched on. Once done with slamming the food it tosses the fish up in the air, catches it in its long bill and swallows it headfirst.

Like an owl, the Belted Kingfisher will regurgitate any indigestible parts in the form of pellets.

These birds teach their young to fish by dropping dead prey into the water for the young to retrieve. One wonders how many meals are lost with the tossing in the air approach.

Habitat

The territorial habitat of these birds are wetlands, rivers, lakes and ponds.

Since they nest in eroding banks, controlled streams may deprive them of nesting sites.

Breeding bird survey data show an average population decline of almost 2 percent annually.

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