Belted Kingfisher

(Ceryle torquata)

The Belted Kingfisher is a common waterside resident throughout North America. This Kingfisher is a medium-sized, stocky bird with a large, crested head, and a long, solid bill.

The bird has a small white spot by each eye, at the base of the bill. Its back is an overall slate blue color.

The white belly is transected by a slate blue band, topped with a white collar.

Unusual in the world of birds, the female is more colorful than the male. She has an additional rufous band and rufous coloring on the sides of the belly.

It is often seen hovering before it plunges headfirst into water to catch a fish, frog or some other aquatic creature.

Female Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle torquata)


Both Sexes

Length: 11–14 in (28–35 cm).

Wingspan: 19–23 in (48–58 cm).

Weight: 4.9–6 oz (140–170 g)


Kingfishers are found along shorelines and wetlands in fresh and salt water environments.

Clear water is paramount, so they can see their aquatic prey.

Breeding bird survey data shows the Kingfisher population is declining almost 2 percent annually.


Belted Kingfishers perch or hover over open water, watching for prey. Once prey is sighted, they dive headfirst into the water and seize it with their bills. Typically prey is taken near the surface, and the birds do not submerge themselves completely. Belted Kingfishers are highly territorial and vigorously defend their territories.

Their most common call is a dry rattle, often given in flight.


Kingfishers almost always take food from the water, feeding predominantly on small fish. They will also prey on crayfish, frogs, tadpoles, and other aquatic dwellers.

An interesting behavior with this bird is how it eats.

After diving for a fish it will return to its perch and begins to beat the food against the limb or whatever it's perched on. Once done with slamming the food it tosses the fish up in the air, catches it in its long bill and swallows it headfirst.

These birds teach their young to fish by dropping dead prey into the water for the young to retrieve. You have to wonder, how many good meals are lost with this tossing in the water approach.

Belted Kingfisher Male (Ceryle torquata)

Like an owl, the Kingfisher will regurgitate any indigestible parts in the form of pellets.


Not only is nearby water a requirement of Kingfishers, they also need a sandy bank to nest in.

nests in burrows dug in sandy banks. Two of its toes are fused together and act as a shovel for digging these burrows. The area of the nest site itself is about 10 - 12 inches in diameter and is domed.

The tunnel slopes upward from the entrance, to keep water from entering the nest.

Tunnel length ranges from 1 to 8 ft (30 cm to 2.5 m).

Both the male and the female incubate the 3-7 eggs that she lays in the burrow. Incubation will last for 24 days.

The young will be born without feathers and be brooded by the female, while the male feeds the young and the female. Once the chicks begin to get feathers, both male and female will feed them by regurgitating fish to feed the young.

The young Belted Kingfishers will leave the nest about 33 to 38 days after hatching. Within 1 - 2 weeks the young will be able to feed themselves and will begin looking for their own territories.

If the nest isn't disturb by outside influences, the pair will reuse the nest from season to season.

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