Belted Kingfisher Comes To Roost

by Larry Jordan on October 31, 2010

Belted Kingfisher Female In Flight photos by Larry Jordan

I was able to catch this Belted Kingfisher flying across the Sacramento River a couple of years ago and have been trying to get some good photos of one of these great fisher birds since.  They are so much fun to watch as they dive into the water for fish.  Their rattling call is usually heard before seeing this species.

I heard the call and watched as this female dove into the Sacramento River near a group of Wood Ducks I had been photographing nearby.  It was a cool, overcast day and the light was not very good for digiscoping but I followed her until she perched on a snag overhanging the river.

This is typical behavior for the Belted Kingfisher.  They will hunt their prey from an overhanging tree, snag or wire.  They will also hover over the water and dive down on their prey.  After capturing a fish, the bird flies to a perch where it pounds its prey against the perch by sideway movements of its head. Pounding serves to stun the fish and provides a means of turning the fish so it can be swallowed head first.  Undigested remains of such prey are regularly regurgitated as pellets1.

Before perching on this snag, this female was fishing from a large rock at the waters edge.  The female is distinguished by the rufous band across the lower breast and rufous sides.  Belted Kingfishers are solitary birds except during breeding season and will defend their fishing spots along the river, giving off those rattling calls we hear so often.  During breeding season they excavate burrows in the river banks (photo courtesy of Birds of North America Online).

Now that I know where this snag is located, I hope to get some better shots of the kingfishers I saw here.  Maybe I will even be able to locate their nest site this spring and watch them with their offspring.  Until then, here is another shot of her just before she made another dive.

To see some great bird photos, check out Bird Photography Weekly!

Refereences: 1 – Birds Of North America Online: Issue No. 084 – Revised: January 27, 2009, Authors: Hamas, Michael J., Revisors: Kelly, Jeffrey F., and Eli S. Bridge

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

gwendolen October 31, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Kingfishers are such fun too watch. I love that first shot, wow.

The Belted Kingfisher fishes a lot like the Pied Kingfisher. I hope to get some new photos of the Pied in December. Hopefully with a fish in its beak 🙂


Mick November 1, 2010 at 12:15 am

Great photos of the kingfisher. I love the “tufted” look to the head in the photos where the bird is perching.


dreamfalcon November 1, 2010 at 12:51 am

You’ve got some very nice photos of it here! The one in flight is just so cool!


Larry November 1, 2010 at 5:34 am

@Gwen yea, that first shot was pretty lucky. Right place, right time. I wish you the best of luck getting some shots of the kingfisher with a fish. I want to get some video of the Belted Kingfisher fishing. Great fun!

@Mick, I agree, cool hairdo

@Natalie thank you very much


Birding is Fun! November 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Belted Kingfishers are one of my all time favorite birds. I never get tired of seeing and hearing them along a river or near a pond or lake. Great photos and video!

I was lucky enough to see the Green Kingfishers in San Pedro AZ a few years ago too. Awesome birds!


Dawn Fine November 1, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Great Kingfisher post Larry. Thanks for including the video too.
Love that first in flight shot..looks like a speeding bullet..
Happy Birding from Jeff and Me!


Larry November 1, 2010 at 6:25 pm

@Robert thanks. They are one of my favorite birds as well. I hope to see many more species of Kingfishers once I am able to travel for birding excursions

@Dawn thank you very much. Still photos are great for detail but I think it is nice to see video to witness the birds behavior. Happy birding back at ya!


Lana November 2, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Great shots! Wish I had a digi-setup. Maybe someday…


Phil November 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

A super video Larry. I love watching Kingfishers for all the reasons shown in the video – just so much intense activity from them – bundles of energy.


NatureFootstep November 6, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Hi Larry. Glad you vistied my post for last week. I did not see you had posted.

This is a bird with a cool hairdo. 🙂 I am going to Costa Rica in the end of January and I hope to see it there. Now I got some info on it. It is good to learn as much as you can before you go. 🙂

Reply January 26, 2011 at 4:19 pm

The first shot of the bird in flight is amazing, but I also love your picture of the nest burrow! I’m a sucker for ‘nest’ pictures.


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