Appearing top-heavy with an over-sized bill and head, belted kingfishers are common around the Salish Sea. Three reasons for this are the abundance of sandy banks suitable for nesting burrows, small fish for them to catch and overhanging trees and boat masts upon which to perch while looking for number two. One of the few bird species where the female is more brightly colored than the male, never-the-less during breeding season these birds seriously defend their territory against all other kingfishers. Learn to listen for their long rattle call – like marbles in a tin can, and you won’t have to see the bird to know it’s there.
Kingfishers pair up for a season when the male’s love-offering of a tasty morsel is accepted by the female. After all the falderal, they choose a sandy bank and both build a nest in about a week, then rear the five to eight young together, sharing the duties. The nest burrow is usually near water and can be up to eight feet deep, sloping it slightly upwards to the nest, possibly to keep it dry. As nestlings, young can digest all bones and fish scales given them, apparently to keep the burrow clean and smell-free from predators. Body chemistry changes as they grow, and regurgitated pellets under roosting trees can show you what kingfishers eat.
Larry Eifert paints and writes about wild places. His work is in many national parks across America – and at larryeifert.com.
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