Belted kingfishers are medium-sized, stocky birds. Their plumage is blue-gray, except for a white collar and belly. Both sexes have a gray chest band, and females have an additional rufous-colored (reddish brown) chest band. Unlike most birds, it is females of this species that are conspicously colored. Their length ranges from 28-35 cm, with a head and bill that are large compared to their bodies. Their heads also has a very noticable, ragged, double-pointed crest that reaches from the base of the bill to the back of the neck. Juveniles closely resemble adult females in coloration.
Belted Kingfishers are native only to the Nearctic region. They breed as far north as northern Canada and Alaska and winter as far south as Central American and the Caribbean islands. They are found throughout the year from southern Canada and coastal Alaska throughout much of the United States.
Belted Kingfishers occur in various aquatic habitats. They can inhabit lakes, mountain streams, coasts, mangrove forests, tidal creeks, swamps, rivers, garden ponds, and calm marine waters. They need clear, still water for fishing, and places to perch while looking for prey. Belted Kingfishers prefer waters that are not overgrown with vegetation. They require unvegetated, earthen banks in order to make their nesting burrows.
Belted Kingfishers prefer to construct nesting burrows near their fishing territory, but nest sites can be located far away from water. They usually lay 6-8 pure white, glossy eggs. Egg incubation lasts 22 to 24 days. Belted Kingfishers will nest again only if the first group of eggs is destroyed.
Both parents incubate the eggs, with females sitting through the night, and males taking their place in the early morning. Males sometimes feed the female while she sits. The young are brooded constantly for 3-6 days after hatching, usually by the female. Food is regurgitated for the chicks, and the male feeds them twice as often as the female. Fledgings leave the burrow around the 28th day. The young remain with the parents for about 3 weeks, and are fed by them with increasing irregularity for this amount of time. Eventually, the parents refuse to feed them anymore, and the chicks are thus forced to feed themselves.
Belted Kingfishers are generally solitary, except during the breeding season. Pairs strongly defend their territories throughout the breeding season. The male especially will escort an intruder out of his feeding grounds, scolding all the way. If anything is out of order in a Belted Kingfisher's territory, it often responds by erecting the crest feathers. However, most territorial defense is accomplished through calling and aerial chases. Hovering in search of prey has been observed. Most individuals migrate, though members of this species are capable of withstanding North American winter temperatures provided that open water is available. Belted Kingfishers are active throughout the day.
A vibrating, mechanical rattle is the characteristic call, given at the smallest disturbance. A scream is also often used by both sexes, in confrontational retreat, while displaying a threat, or as a greeting when a mate is approaching.
The main diet of belted kingfishers consists of various types of fish, especially brown trout, bluntnose minnows, bluegill sunfish, sculpin, and Atlantic salmon. They usually eat small fish, but belted kingfishers have been observed to swallow fish as long as the bird itself, sometimes leaving an inch or so of the tail sticking out of the beak. If fish are scarce, they also eat snails, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, reptiles, young birds, small mammals, and berries. Anything that remains undigested is later regurgitated as a pellet. Belted kingfishers normally hunt from perches bordering a body of water. Belted kingfishers dive for their prey with their eyes closed. They usually do not go under water, instead they grab their prey near the surface of shallow waters. Once they have captured their prey, they fly up to a branch, and stun the prey by slamming it against the branch. They then toss it into the air, catch it headfirst, and swallow it. Clear water and a clear view of prey are vital to belted kingfishers for successful foraging. During the summer months they can be seen feeding in small ditches, creeks, large rivers, and along margins of ponds and lakes.
Belted kingfishers will mob predators and can be quite aggressive. They emit a shrill, rattling cry and will chase intruders until they leave the territory. Fledgling belted kingfishers may fall prey to hawks, as they are poor flyers. Other predators will prey on nestlings in the nest, though predation rates of belted kingfisher nestlings is low as they are protected in nest cavities.
Before migratory bird laws were enacted, Belted Kingfishers were often shot by humans at fish hatcheries and by trout streams, where they were considered a nuisance.
Population growth has been stimulated by human activity in some regions, such as the digging of sand and gravel pits, which create nesting habitats. The belted kingfisher does not seem to be as affected as other fish-eating birds by environmental contaminants. They are sometimes still shot illegally at some fish hatcheries.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
reproduction that is not sexual; that is, reproduction that does not include recombining the genotypes of two parents
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
animals that generate their own body heat through metabolic processes.
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
fertilization takes place within the female's body
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
parental care is carried out by males
marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
uses sight to communicate