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Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher
Megaceryle alcyon
Order: Coraciformes; Family Cerylidae

The Belted Kingfisher is the only local large-beaked grayish-blue bird that perches on branches near water and dives down after prey. It will dive in headfirst, or may pause to hover above the surface, when catching fish.

It also eats small reptiles and amphibians, insects, crustaceans, mussels, and small mammals such as mice. The Kingfisher will often beat a fish's head against its perch before swallowing.

It is a fairly large bird, 11-14 inches long, with a wingspan close to 2 feet. The large head is blue with a prominent feathery crest.

Other features are grey- blue wings with white-dotted black tips, a white "collar" and undersides, and a blue breast band that sometimes has reddish edges. Both the females and juveniles are similar, but also have a reddish band across the belly.

These birds live by rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and swamps from Alaska across Canada to Newfoundland and south through most of the US.

Nesting is done in a chambers at the end of a long tunnel in a bank of earth, sand or gravel near the water. Both birds in a pair make the tunnel, incubate the eggs, and feed the young.

They defend a territory against other Kingfishers during the breeding period, but swallows may share the tunnel, digging their own nesting chambers off to the sides.

While their feeding places are frozen in winter, Belted Kingfishers from the north live in the southern US, Mexico, and Central America , on larger islands of the West Indies and along the Caribbean coast of South America, where they can meet their closest New World relatives, the Ringed Kingfishers.

Photos © Tony Coomer, Memorial Lake State Park, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania