Friday, September 6, 2013

Belted Kingfisher

Naturalist Journal Entry from Becca Mathias, Big Sky Watershed Corpsmember:

August 8th, 2013
9:45 am
BeBe’s Channel
Billings, MT
78 ° F
10% Cloud Cover
Slight breeze from the North

Belted Kingfisher
Ceryle alcyon
I heard a piercing rattle as I was sitting down by BeBe’s Channel near Norm’s Island and I looked up to see two Kingfishers flying low near the water, doing somewhat of a dance in mid-air.  I sat and watched them as they were flying acrobatically near the water and back up again, until they finally took a break and perched on a nearby post.  Their behavior, acrobatic ability and appearance peaked my curiosity, so I looked up some cool facts and information about them in the Sibley Bird Guide and Behavior books.    
Belted Kingfishers feed mainly on small fish, are found around open water areas and use their sharp bill to capture fish underwater.  Belted Kingfishers are great divers, and require clear waters to spot their prey from afar.  They have also been known to eat small crustaceans, aquatic insects, reptiles and amphibians.  They have a piercing rattle for a call and are stocky, large headed birds with a straight, thick, pointed bill.  They have a shaggy crest (resembling a serious mohawk) on the top and back of the head along with white marks around the bill and eye. 

Some cool facts about the Belted Kingfisher:
-        During courtship, the male pursues the female in the air, then the male presents the female with a fish and mating occurs. 
-        Many Kingfishers dig into exposed banks along watercourses, in the roots of upturned trees and holes in walls or bridges and create a nesting area.
-        Both the male and female help create the burrow, which are on average 2 inches wide and 3-10 feet deep!
-        The Belted Kingfisher can hover up to 20-30 feet above water and still spot their prey… wicked awesome eyesight!
Since Belted Kingfishers are so highly specialized, they are experiencing about a 2% per year population decrease due to habitat alteration resulting in the disturbance of their nesting sites.  Since they nest on eroding banks, controlled streams/rivers are preventing the natural formation of those banks that are necessary for building their nests.  These are really neat birds, fun to watch and amazing in a lot of different ways.  It’s worth a trip out to a nearby body of water to catch a glimpse of this beautiful bird!