Wilson Post Blogs
Our Feathered Friends - July 4
Last Sunday, our church family hung around talking about this and that after a great service. My old bowling partner, Anthony Walker, started asking about how the birds in my life were doing and when will I write about the Belted Kingfisher. It’s strange that almost everyone that has anything to say to me always gets around to asking me something about birds.
Many years ago an old friend, Neal Blackburn, photographer for The Lebanon Democrat, pinned the name "Birdman" on me as I was taking pictures for the articles in the "About Birds" featured each week in their newspaper. I'm not sure if he knew my real name, but he taught me quite a bit about taking pictures and developing my own negatives and prints. Barbara Manners also started calling me her “Bird Guru” which Karen Franklin picked up real quickly. That is quite a reputation for me to live up to.
One thing I should have been mentioning is to keep out plenty of fresh water for our feathered friends. My small birds that use the ant moat for their water supply will sit on top of it with their beaks open and will actually pant like a dog. This is the way that they regulate their body temperature. It looks like they are having a rough time in this extreme heat.
Anthony, to get back to your favorite bird, the Belted Kingfisher, (Megaceryle alcyon) it is a large water kingfisher, the only member of that group found in the northern United States and Canada. You will find them around rivers, lakes, creeks and other small streams where it will find some type of fish to dive upon. Many times, while going fishing when I was much younger, a Kingfisher would sing its startling call just above me, making me freeze in my tracks.
There are 90 species of Kingfisher in the world, but only 2 that live in the United States, the Belted Kingfisher and the Green, or Texas, Kingfisher.
The Belted Kingfisher is a medium-sized bird with a large head with a shaggy crest, measuring 11 to 14 inches in length, with a 19 to 23 inch wingspan. Like in our birds of prey, the adult females will be slightly larger than the males. Its long heavy bill is black with a gray base. This Kingfisher shows what is called reverse sexual dimorphism, where the female is more brightly colored than the male. Both sexes have a slate-blue head with a large white collar, a large blue band on the breast and white underparts. It's back and wings are slate-blue with black feather tips with little white dots. The female has a rufous band that runs across the breast and down toward the tail.
I have noticed that Belted Kingfisher, when hunting, will place themselves where their shadows will not scare off their prey. To catch a fish the bird will hover over the water before plunging in a verticle dive, and after catching its prey, then will fly back to its perch and whack the fish against the perch before eating it. Besides fish, they will catch insects, reptiles and even small mammals, and amphibians. Belted Kingfisher live alone except when breeding season is upon them.
During nesting season, both parents will excavate a tunnel extending into a dirt bank where the female lays five to eight glossy white eggs that will be incubated by both. These tunnels are dug straight back and then angled upward to the nesting chamber where floods will not be a problem because of an air pocket that keeps the water out. Young usually stay with their parents for about three weeks, being fed with regurgitated food. Doesn't that sound yummy?
Last week I talked about my cousin out on the lake with the birds nesting on the rock bluff. Allison Neal reported that the young have finally flew the coop. On top of that, they got stranded on the lake all night long when their boat lost power in an area with no cell phone reception. About five in the morning they finally got a tow from some of the Rangers of the Tennessee Wildlife Resourses Agency.