Discover Nature: Belted Kingfisher

Apr 4, 2017

This week on Discover Nature, listen for the rattling calls of Belted Kingfishers (Ceryle alcyan) along streams.

The belted kingfisher is an uncommon summer resident (breeder) in Missouri. Their populations are declining steeply continent-wide. Watch and listen for them fishing along Missouri streams this spring.
Credit Missouri Department of Conservation

You’ll likely hear these birds before you see them, but watch for their distinctive big heads, shaggy crests, long, sharp bills, and short tails.

Belted Kingfishers nest in burrowed chambers excavated in vertical stream banks or sandy pond edges, generally near good fishing areas.

They hover or perch above streams and ponds, plunging headfirst into the water to capture prey seen from above. They’ll take a small fish to a nearby perch, beat it against a branch, flip it into the air, and swallow it headfirst.

Kingfishers also eat crayfish, frogs, toads, snakes, turtles, insects, young birds, mice, and even fruits. Parents train their young how to dive by dropping food into the water below their perch.

Kingfishers do not tolerate frequent human disturbance, and their populations are declining steeply continent-wide. Watch and listen for these uncommon summer residents as they return to Missouri for fishing season.

Learn more about Belted Kingfishers and find places near you to watch them in the wild with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.