February 2015 Bird Photo of the Month

Can you hear me now? © Hart Rufe
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Isn’t this a character?  What audacity and verve! The characteristic rattle call of the Belted Kingfisher makes its presence known, usually before we see it. Boaters encounter kingfishers moving just ahead along the banks of our rivers, sheltered coves, and shallow lakes and bays. The kingfisher swoops off its perch to the next bare branch overlooking its fishing area. From a perch, or after hovering in mid-air to spot a small fish or aquatic animals like crayfish, they plunge dive into the water. Notoriously difficult to photograph since the bird flies upon approach, Judge Hart Rufe has caught it with his Nikon D300, f/11, 1/1250, -0.3EV, ISO 400, 600 mm f/4, 1.7 tele-extender, focal length 1000 as it expresses its attitude.

Usually solitary, kingfishers hunt in their own hunting territory, but when breeding, both parents will defend the territory, chasing intruders. Though there is no apparent pre-mating display ritual, the male flies to the branch where the female perches, then after hesitation, mounts. After seven seconds, they both soar in a spiraling aerial climb.  As the female returns to her perch, the male dips to the lake surface, then ascends spiraling, and with a somersault, descends while flashing white on its outstretched wings. Using strong bills they dig a one-to-eight foot deep nest in a riverbank. Easy access to provide fish for their hungry babies allows both to share parental duties.

The single blue-gray band across its white breast readily identifies this male; the fancier female is identical but has added decoration–a chestnut brown belt with side-bars, below the blue gray band. Kingfishers lack suitable nesting banks in our flat state, so is a scarce breeder in Florida. However, Florida has many migratory kingfishers in the fall, fishing alongside our migratory human fishers.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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