Saturday, 2 February 2013

Belted Kingfisher

order : Coraciiformes      Genus & Species : Alcedinidae     Family : Megaceryle alcyon

Sometimes called the lazy bird, the belted kingfisher can be spotted perched on pier posts or hovering above the water before making its lightning-fast attack on prey. The large blue-gray head and conspicuous crest of the belted kingfisher contrast with its small body, short tail and tiny feet. They found in Alaska, Canada and throughout the entire U.S.; also Mexico, the West Indies, Panama and Central America. 

Habitat : The kingfisher lives near water, whether along the sea coast, creeks, ponds, lakes or mountain streams; it prefers clear waters with overhanging trees or other perches. It also can be found in mangroves, tidal creeks, swamps and garden ponds in elevations from sea level to 10,000' in the Rocky Mountains. Though it winters over most of its breeding range in the U.S. and southern Canada, the kingfisher is an occasional migrant to Central America and the West Indies. 
Food & Hunting : The belted kingfisher hunts from a perch when the water surface is calm. The bird eats mainly small fish, either by diving from its perch and seizing the fish with its powerful bill or by hovering about 20' above the water and making a straight or spiral dive. From the air, the bird swoops close to the water’s surface and dips down to catch a meal, closing its eyes at the last instant. Most aquatic prey is caught about 2' below the water’s surface; the bird spreads its wings underwater to break the dive. No matter which method the kingfisher chooses, it takes the captured fish back to its perch, beats it against a hard object, such as post or branch, and then tosses it into the air, swallowing the morsel head first. The belted kingfisher also eats insects, crayfish, clams, oysters, frogs, small snakes, mussels, turtles, grasshoppers, moths, beetles, young birds, mice, berries and bullfrog tadpoles. While fish are swallowed whole, invertebrates are often torn into pieces after being beaten against a hard surface. 
Behavior : The territorial kingfisher will perch regularly on dead branches over water or on piers — perfect vantage points for watching prey. At night, the belted kingfisher often can be spotted roosting on dead tree limbs. Its loud, rattling call can be heard as the bird flies from its perch in search of food. Not afraid of humans, the bird is always on the lookout for its predators, mainly birds of prey. Sometimes the kingfisher dives below the water’s surface to escape the attacks of a peregrine falcon or Cooper’s hawk.The bird is solitary except during the nesting season. 
Breeding : The male belted kingfisher marks the start of the breeding season in the spring with noisy chasing flights within its territory.The male will feed the female as part of the courtship ritual. Pairs, which mate for life, emit high-pitched squeaks during courtship flights. Nest-building is elaborate and time-consuming. Both sexes dig a nesting tunnel 4–8' long in the steep section of a river bank, at the end of which they make a nesting chamber. Depending on the soil type, the nest can take from three days to three weeks to dig.The nesting chamber at the end of the burrow is often lined with clean white fish bones. Some belted kingfishers have also been known to nest in the tops of hollow stumps or in tree cavities.The female lays 5–8 white eggs, which are then incubated by both parents for about 23 days.The eggs hatch at daily intervals; thus, the chicks vary greatly in size. Both parents feed the young small fish, which they carefully deposit into the hungry mouths. Each chick eats up to 15 small fish a day, which keeps the parents extremely busy.The chicks are ready to leave the nest in about 30–35 days. 

Bill : The bill is stout and sharp for spearing fish and also for carrying the prey back to its perch. In this fish-eating species, the bill is flattened from side to side. 
Feet : The feet are weak and fleshy, with the second and third toes partly joined, a feature which facilitates movement underwater when the bird dives for prey. 
In Flight : When diving for fish, the kingfisher plunges with powerful wing beats at a 45° angle, making last minute adjustments to its aim by fanning its tail feathers. 

Weight : 4–6 oz.
Length : 11-14"
Sexual Maturity : 1 year
Breeding Season : April–July 

The belted kingfisher disgorges pellets of fish bones, scales and other indigestible parts of food.

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