The belted kingfisher, a medium-sized stocky bird with a large crested head, loves the water.
They prefer clear water with trees overhanging giving them places to perch from which to hunt food. Here in Florida they love the mangroves as well.
When pursuing prey their flight speeds range anywhere between 30 mph and 45 mph depending on the wind factors. The kingfisher will hunt when water conditions are calm.
The belted kingfisher.
They dive from their perch and use strong bills to seize prey. They dive directly into the water closing their eyes just before breaking the surface. They use their sharp bill for spearing fish and carrying prey back to their perch.
They mainly eat small fish. Belted kingfishers also eat small frogs, crayfish, clams, oysters, small snakes, small turtles, grasshoppers and many other small insects.
Kingfisher birds hunt during the day, roosting in nearby trees at night. They make a loud rattling noise that can be heard when they travel from perch to perch.
Merry Beth Ryan, a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, can be reached at www.merrybethryanphotography.com, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (941) 544-5023.
Belted kingfishers are not afraid of humans but are always on the lookout for predators. At times they will dive beneath the surface of the water to escape an attacking falcon, hawk, eagle or osprey.
Belted kingfishers have a large blue gray-colored head with a small white spot near each eye. They always appear top-heavy because of their large heads, short tail and tiny feet.
The female bird is more colorful but male and the female bird have a gray breast band. Males have a bluish-gray breast band and females have a chestnut-colored belly band.
For the most part belted kingfishers are a solitary bird they live except when breeding. Belted kingfishers have been known to share tunnels they dig in the sand to lay their eggs in with swallows. Two of the kingfisher's toes are fused together on each foot, which helps them dig tunnels. Their fused toes plow through the sand while making a tunnel to lay eggs inside.
The old Boca Grande railroad trestle often is a great spot to see these birds. I also see them often in Ski Alley on Lemon Bay while fishing.
I welcome seeing them because they are my good luck charm. I enjoy watching them perch ready to swoop down in search of their next meal. They are a pretty and colorful bird easily recognized.