Belted Kingfisher

Common Name - Belted Kingfisher

Category - Birds

ScientificName - Ceryle alcyon

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Aves

Order - Coraciiformes

Family - Alcedinidae

Genus - Ceryle

Species - alcyon


Description - Blue-gray head, back, wings, and chest band; female has reddish-brown band on belly; large bill; bushy crest on head; legs short

Size - 13 in. (33 cm) long

Ecological Role - In an aquatic food chain, the belted kingfisher is a top predator. It hovers, and then dives into water to feed. The kingfisher defends about 500 yards (0.46 km) of stream length as its feeding territory. Mammals and snakes feed on the eggs and hatchlings; juveniles are vulnerable to predation by raptors.

Fun Facts - The belted kingfisher can swallow a fish as long as itself! Before swallowing a fish, the kingfisher will toss it in the air and catch it headfirst in its mouth. The kingfisher is one of few birds in which the female is more colorful than the male.

Food - Mostly fish, also salamanders, frogs, mollusks, crayfish, lizards, insects, young birds, mice, occasionally berries


Nest - Nesting requirements very specific; nest tunnel dug by both male and female using their beaks and feet; tunnel usually 3 – 6 ft. (0.9 – 1.8 m) ending at a chamber; excavated into vertical clay, sand, or gravel bank and to very specific dimensions for distance from base, distance from top, and diameter of opening; may be away from water but preferably near feeding site

Breeding - Late March – June; stays with one mate during breeding season (seasonally monogamous); during courtship, male sings to the female and feeds her

Eggs- Usually 6 – 7 per nest; glossy white; hatch in 22 – 25 days; female sits at night, male during day; male feeds female while she sits on eggs

Habitat - Small creeks, farm ponds, streams, rivers, lake margins, limited by availability of suitable nest sites and food-getting (foraging) sites

Kentucky Distribution - Statewide

Life Cycle

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes


Status - Common


Voice - Vibrating rattle

Young - Born without feathers and helpless; leave nest in 27 – 29 days after hatching, then parents teach young to fish by dropping dead meals into water for young to retrieve; approximately 10 days later, young begin to catch live food

What We Can Do


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

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