While leading a team building exercise (birdwatching of course) at work a few months ago, the group encountered this month’s Bird of the Month. Someone said to me, “I didn’t know we had birds like that around here.” This month’s bird elicits that kind of comment from folks who’ve never seen it before, even though it is actually quite a common bird. Matter-of-fact, it is one of the most widespread birds in all of North America.
The featured bird of the month is the large and loud Belted Kingfisher.
While leading another bird hike this past month a lady asked me, “What in the world is making all that noise?” What she heard was a Belted Kingfisher. They do kick up a lot of racket. Their call is not only loud, but a bit “harsh” as well. You are far more likely to hear one before you see one because they will start making their rattling calls when disturbed. They make all this noise in defense of territory. If it perceives a menace to its territory, it makes that clamorous call. If that doesn’t rid the area of what it doesn’t like, it will then give aerial chase to unwanted intruders.
Belted Kingfishers are relatively large (about 12 inches in length). They are short-legged, big-headed, big-billed birds (their head and bill are so big in proportion to the rest of their body…they look almost comical to me).
I find Belted Kingfishers quite interesting. One of the things that I find most interesting about them is that they are the only bird I’ve ever seen in which the female is actually more colorful than the male. Male Belted Kingfishers are blue and white. The female is identical except she has a chestnut-colored band across her chest and down her sides.
As their name implies, fish is the main stay of a kingfisher’s diet. They are often seen perched from a vantage point that allows them to see their prey in clear water and then dive in to collect. However, sometimes I’ve seen them hover above water and then make their dives. I wish more folks could catch them do this, because it’s actually a spectacular site to see.
Belted Kingfishers remain in our area as long as open water remains. So, if you’ve yet to see this kingfisher, let this be a target bird before winter sets in.
Douglas “Birdman” Gray has been birding almost all of his life. He grew up on a family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, where they grew crops ranging from apricots to wheat, and most things in between. They also raised chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, and a cow named…….Apples. Doug’s grandfather identified the birds they would see daily on the farm.
Doug now resides in Indianapolis and works in Parenteral Engineering with Eli Lilly and Company. Most of his current birding takes place in Indiana, with a concentration on Central Indiana, where he leads bird walks for “Backyard Birds”. Doug can be reached at 317-255-7333.