On November seventeenth, I was thrilled to observe a Belted Kingfisher fly over the pond from the south, and land at the top of a tree on the northeast side of the water. I was able to take a few photos of it, then it flew across the pond to the west where I lost sight of it.
Not having ever expected to see this species at our farm pond, I knew almost nothing about it. Fortunately, there’s this place / thing / kingdom referred to as the Internet. There one can find a wealth of information – not always accurate – about nearly every topic imaginable. So, I did a little research on this curious blue and white bird.
What I learned is that there are about 90 species, worldwide, but only one popped up in AllAboutBirds. I suppose the site caters to North America. The Belted Kingfisher is the only species that is found in my area of the world. A few others are found in the USA, but in warmer climates.
I also learned that the species is sexually-dimorphic meaning that the two genders look different. In the Belted Kingfisher, the males have one blue band across the chest. The female have the same blue band, plus a chestnut colored band below that. Good to know. The bird that I filmed was a male.
The species was described as frequenting streams and shoreline. It maintains a breeding territory along those areas. We have a farm pond. There’s no running water. I wouldn’t consider it a “shoreline.” The “Backyard tips” section of the AllAboutBirds page said, “Belted Kingfishers sometimes come to backyards that contain ponds or goldfish pools, often to the dismay of the homeowners.” I don’t think that our farm pond has any goldfish, but it sure has ample frogs, Blue gills, Large mouth bass and catfish! If they hunt koi up near a house, they might enjoy something like a Crappie in a more private setting. Still, I thought, “I will probably never see this bird again.” I was so happy to have been present when it decided to land in the tree by our pond!
A couple of days ago, I saw a bird in a tree near the south end of the pond. It was big. Never shy about filming an unknown critter, I snapped a few shots. The images were poor quality, the dead leaves on the tree were concealing the bird’s image, the bird wasn’t in focus….but I was pretty certain it was a Kingfisher.
On November 29, I was positioned at the feeder by the lower pond clearing when I began to hear the chattering call of a Kingfisher. First, it was coming from quite far away, to the south. I clicked my camera setting to video record and captured this call:
Then, the calling got louder. About every few minutes I could tell the bird was moving closer. Finally, after hearing its raspy call for several minutes, the bird made it appearance – flying along the east side of the pond to the top of a tree. I can’t say exactly, but I think it was the same tree it had landed a couple weeks earlier. Click. Click. Click. My shutter worked quickly to catch the bird before it flew off. Here is a photo of the bird – original view from my position and cropped.
Once I enlarged the photo, I was quite amazed to see that this bird appears to have the chestnut colored band below the blue band on its chest. It’s a female! This isn’t the same bird that had visited on the seventeenth. It’s impossible to say, due to the poor image quality, whether it was the bird that showed up the day prior.
After sufficient time filming the birds at the lower pond feeder, I decided to travel to the Pond Overlook area that Robert recently mowed for my viewing pleasure. It’s south of the lower feeder and much higher. Here’s a view from that area. When located at the Lower Pond feeder, I had been positioned out of frame on the left. The bird had landed in a tree out of frame on the right, then crossed the pond to a stand of mature trees out of frame on the upper right. I hoped to see it fly from there, if it was still in the area.
It’s a lovely place to sit and reflect in the reflection of the pond (facing northeast.) The next photo faces south from the same spot.
I began hearing the Kingfisher’s vocalization after sitting for a few minutes. It was getting loud, and I thought it might be prudent to capture the call on video. That sets me up to be a few seconds away from re-initiating the camera setting. Since birds fly in and out of my range in less than that amount of time, I often hold back from clicking over to video. But, this time it was worth it.
When attempting to record an bird call, I’m only focused on catching the audio. So, I tend to just hold the camera towards the sound. I’m not actively trying to capture an image – but the camera still records audio and visual information. For that reason, this next video is exceedingly jumpy and lacking a point of view. Still, unwittingly, I caught the flight of the bird as it landed in a tree across the pond.
The bird, albeit very small in the frame, can be seen landing in the tree top about center of the image. The rattling call you hear throughout is the Kingfisher’s vocalization.
So, let’s remember that I didn’t know it was a female, and therefore a different bird than I saw two weeks earlier. I just assumed there was a single, male bird. However, once I came to know the gender through processing the photos, I was surprised – again – to find that the still shot images of this flying bird showed no chestnut coloring on the chest. The photos are not stellar, they bird was quite far away. But, I think it’s clear there is no copper color across the chest.
What that suggests to my novice birder brain is that a pair of Kingfishers stopped by on November 29. Were they checking out a possible place to have a brood come Spring? Oh how incredible that might be!
I wrote a post a while back regarding “If you look, you will see.” Here’s another example of that phenomenon.
I can assure you I will be looking for this pair of Kingfishers every time I go out near the pond, and even more so when it comes time for them to dig into the earth and make their nest. Yes, they burrow “along earthen banks and feed almost entirely on aquatic prey, diving to catch fish and crayfish with its heavy, straight bill.” AllAboutBirds reference. We have plenty of burrow-able space around our pond – I’m just sayin’ – and rent is very reasonable.