Belted Kingfisher

Megaceryle alcyonA Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was patrolling some of the un-iced water in Stranahan-Olmsted-Vaux’s park over the long weekend.Megaceryle alcyonThis is a male. Male birds are typically more colorful than females, but this isn’t the case with this species. M. alcyon females have a rusty band below the blue collar-like markings, the “belt” of their common name.Megaceryle alcyonThey are fishers of… well, fish, small ones, and also crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, even berries on occasion. They have a distinctive rattling cry. This one was silent as he flew back and forth over the rather narrow patch of open water. When perched, he did this bobbing movement where, tail cocked, head lifted, he rose up and down. What was this about? Megaceryle alcyonThey nest in burrows up to six feet long in earthen banks, next to water if possible. Prospect Park lacks the required terrain for nesting, but these birds can be seen during migration. This one in January is unusual: hanging around over the winter is only possible as long as there is open water to fish in: the birds plunge into the water to capture prey. Megaceryle alcyonSomething I noticed most strongly after the fact, as I reviewed my photos: the white spots before the eyes, giving the bird a “bright-eyed” look indeed, when in fact their actual eyes are quite dark. Why should this be so?

7 Responses to “Belted Kingfisher”

  1. 1 Paul Lamb January 23, 2014 at 8:22 am

    We have one that visits the lake below our Ozark cabin. While we have a steep dirt bank beside our lake, I’ve never seen a burrow hole in it. I’ll have to look more closely.

  2. 2 Kevin Dann January 23, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Any day that one meets a kingfisher is a halcyon day, indeed, Matthew. The just-so story I recall about other species’ eye adornments (such as the black stripe under a kestrel’s) is that they reduced glare, just like a football player’s technique. The counter-proposition would be that a white patch like the kingfisher’s increases reflection, but heck, you would think that he has the biggest struggle with glare of all, hanging about staring into ponds and rivers all day. . .

  3. 3 Elizabeth January 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Total speculation: the white gets reflected in the dark water as he dives, centering the prey fish as a target in the middle.

  4. 5 fifteenacres January 24, 2014 at 3:46 am

    He looks very distinguished, and the plumage is beautifully coloured. Very different from our Kookaburra but I can see similar lines in the shape of the bird.

    • 6 mthew January 24, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      Very top-heavy look to the kingfishers. Supporting that long bill I suppose. I’ve not been to the Antipodes, but someday, someday! Could use some of your heat right now, actually.

  5. 7 Zina January 31, 2014 at 7:19 am

    Beautiful photos, and description. I know nothing about birds, but I think Elizabeth’s reasoning is brilliant!

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