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Belted Kingfishers’ Distinctive Traits

8-2-16 belted kingfisher 520You often hear a Belted Kingfisher before you see it. Their territorial, mechanical “rattle” is quite distinctive and issued frequently.  This call is just one of their more distinctive traits.  They are one of the few species of birds where the female’s plumage (two “belts” on breast) is more colorful than the male’s (one breast “belt”). Kingfishers have a distinctive pattern of wingbeats: whereas most birds beat their wings several times and then glide, kingfishers’ wingbeats are irregular and intermittent, lacking the flap and glide pattern.  Kingfishers have the unusual ability to hover in one spot while surveying the water 20 to 40 feet below for fish or other prey.  When they capture a fish, they often return to a branch and whack it multiple times against the branch to assure its compliance in being swallowed head first without a struggle.  Even the nesting site of a Belted Kingfisher is fairly unusual —  a chamber located at the end of a 3 to 6-foot-long bank burrow they dig with their bill and feet.

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12 responses

  1. Yep. Along with pileateds, a really good argument for dinosaur ancestry.

    August 2, 2016 at 8:10 am

  2. Love this posting..we have kingfishers at our pond…and yes the rattle is the first sign

    August 2, 2016 at 8:57 am

  3. Oh, my… another fascinating batch of information! Thanks!

    August 2, 2016 at 9:02 am

  4. Clarocque88@gmail.com On Aug 2, 2016 8:04 AM, “Naturally Curious with Mary Holland” wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “You often hear a Belted Kingfisher before you see > it. Their territorial, mechanical “rattle” is quite distinctive and issued > frequently. This call is just one of their more distinctive traits. They > are one of the few species of birds where the female’s ” >

    August 2, 2016 at 9:37 am

  5. That has got to be the happiest-looking bird I’ve ever seen!

    August 2, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    • I agree! 🙂

      August 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    • Marilyn

      Her smile goes back under her eye(s) !

      August 2, 2016 at 2:04 pm

  6. beverly Murray

    this is in reply to the white admirals I saw in my yard in July. I live in northern New York about 30 miles from the St. Lawrence River. I saw they were maybe from Wisconsin?

    August 2, 2016 at 12:35 pm

  7. Marilyn

    I recognize belted kingfishers by sight and sound, but the rest of the information is new. The nesting site is most surprising.

    August 2, 2016 at 2:01 pm

  8. Great image, Mary. I love these birds, so distinctive – we have them along the river. I didn’t know that they were burrow nesters!

    August 4, 2016 at 9:16 pm

  9. Linda Howes

    A burrow? Oh my gosh…in the ground…3-6’…that’s amazing! Thank you!

    August 9, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    • It’s actually in a sandy bank, Linda, more horizontal than vertical (slight tilt upwards to drain rain water) — still digging to do, but not as hard as if it were vertically down into the soil.

      August 10, 2016 at 9:09 am

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