Our Conspicuous Kingfisher

While they have numerous cousins across the globe, belted kingfishers have laid claim to North America and anyone who visits our streams, lakes and coastal bays soon becomes aware of their presence. Easily identified by their large, crested head, heavy bill and characteristic plumage, these birds are usually first noticed due to their loud, rattling call.

Favoring clear waters, belted kingfishers hunt from an overhead limb or hover above their prey before diving to snare it from the surface; victims include fish, amphibians, various aquatic invertebrates and large insects. Monogamous and highly territorial, they dig nesting tunnels into stream banks or nearby road-cuts; the eggs (usually 5-8) are incubated by both parents for three weeks.

The breeding range of this conspicuous kingfisher stretches from southern Alaska through most of Canada and southward across the U.S. Most are permanent residents (if open water is available) but more northern breeders migrate south and wintering birds may be found throughout Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America.