The Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is our choice for this month’s “Dunes in Flight.” Kingfishers can be found throughout North America and have even been found in far off exotic regions like the Galapagos Islands and the Hawaiian Islands. Although they are widespread, they are not a particularly common sight. Lucky birders will most likely observe this species near bodies of fresh and brackish waters. There is a good chance of spotting this species at Oso Flaco Lake.
Belted Kingfishers are one of the larger in the kingfisher family, about the size of a small crow. Their wingspan is roughly 20 inches and they are about 12 inches from head to tail. Their large head and sharp pointed bill are well suited for catching small fish swimming near the water’s surface. Kingfishers prefer clear water so they may easily spot potential prey swimming below. One unique ability that kingfishers possess is hovering over bodies of water. Kingfishers are the largest birds that are known to possess this skill. Aside from fish, Belted Kingfishers have been seen eating small invertebrates, crustaceans, mollusks, insects, amphibians, reptiles, young birds, small mammals, and berries.
During nesting season, male kingfishers will bring females food as they are courting. Males have one blue stripe across their chest and females have an additional rust-colored band on their bellies. The pair will vigorously defend their territory from competing birds, including other kingfishers. If an intruder enters their territory, they will cry out with harsh rattles and attempt to scare it away with a quick display of aerial acrobatics.