Saturday, February 26, 2011


Photo of a Belted Kingfisher by Spencer Moore

I can almost always count on the hearing the rattle of a Kingfisher when I get near water. I may not always be able to see through the sometimes dense underbrush that lines our streams and creeks. Yet, I know, and with satisfaction I count this bird.

Kingfishers fascinate many people. The steel blue-grey coat offset by an orange vest, completed with a flamboyant crest on a head quite large is easily recognized as a Belted Kingfisher. This kingfisher is the most widespread and common kingfisher in the North America. Their habit and mode of fishing, diving headlong into water, is a sight to behold as well.

Kingfishers are one of the few species in which the female is more colorful than the male. Don’t ask me, I don’t know why. I can only speculate that it is because these birds nest deeply burrowed in cliffs.

Worldwide, Kingfishers are divided into three groups or subfamilies. The “fishers” are well distributed throughout the Old World, have smaller bodies, possess narrow, sharp pointed bills and are always found near water. The “foresters” are more diverse, mainly found in Australasia, are larger bodied, and possess flattened and broader bills. The third group is the Cerylinae. Three of the six Cerylinae are found in North America—the Belted, Ringed and Green Kingfishers.

Kingfishers are highly specialized and hunt by sight. This has made them susceptible to siltation of our streams and habitat degradation, especially when channelization and stream control occurs. This is particularly true for the Belted Kingfisher.

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