The belted kingfisher has a large head, a bushy crest, and a large black bill. They are stocky fishing birds, up to 45 cm tall. The male plumage is blue-grey above with a large white collar, a broad gray breast band, and white underparts. They have a small white spot next to each eye.
Females look the same except they have a rusty band that goes across the breast, and down the sides, making kingfishers one of the few birds where the female is more colorful than the male. Juvenile males will have a mottled rusty band, and young females have a rusty band that is not as pronounced as it is in the adults.
They are often seen hovering in the air as they prepare to dive into the water for a fish. Belted kingfishers feed on a variety of aquatic foods that include fish, frogs, tadpoles, and insects. The best place to observe them is around water. They feed in rivers and lakes as well as ponds and streams.
You can find also them at the shoreline of our island’s coast. They will perch on a limb overlooking the water, so they can see their prey swimming about below them. They will leave to dive headfirst into the water and grab the fish. Then fly back to their perch to eat it. I always enjoy watching them fish.
Belted kingfishers will excavate a nest in a bank overlooking a river or lake to make a nest. These nests can get quite smelly after the eggs hatch and the parents begin bringing fish back for the hatchlings. Sometimes when you are walking along a river’s edge, you can find a nest just from the smell.
In most parts of Canada, kingfishers must migrate south to warmer weather but on the south coast, they stay year-round.