From my front porch, I hear a loud rattling chatter sound. I know immediately that a Belted Kingfisher is flying over the lake behind our mobile home. This is a colorful, odd-looking bird easily identified by sight or sound.
I happened to be sitting in the back yard with my camera when this female perched on the tree in the neighbor’s yard. I know it’s a female by the reddish band on her chest. The male has no reddish band, only the powder blue band over his white chest. I watched this female for several minutes as she was perched on the tree overlooking the lake, and I took this photo just before she dived into the water for her lunch.
The Belted Kingfisher can dive straight into the water to catch a small fish in its long bill, or it can hover over the water before diving. I’ve only seen it in action that one time.
Big Heads, Big Bills, Small Feet
My Kaufman bird guide lists them as “stocky and large-headed with a shaggy crest. Bill is long, straight, thick and pointed.” Another description says simply: “big heads, big bills and small feet.” The Belted Kingfisher is quite common around water in most of the United States north of Texas, but they are solitary birds and I’ve only seen one a few times. It nests by digging a tunnel in a dirt bank.
The similar Ringed Kingfisher is a Texas bird, bigger than the Belted Kingfisher and with an even louder, wilder clattering call. The male Ringed Kingfisher sports a rusty-red underpart and the female has a blue band above rusty-red underparts.
A smaller bird is the Green Kingfisher that visits streams in southern Texas and Arizona. Its crest is less obvious and its color is a darker blue-gray than that of the Belted Kingfisher. Its overall coloring is also different, with more white.