The King of the Pond

John Harrod, Manager, Dupont Environmental Education Center

Rarely a day goes by that I do not see or hear a Belted Kingfisher at the DuPont Environmental Education Center. I usually hear its distinctive call alerting me to its presence before I see it. A good description of the call is provided in the Sibley Guide to Birds… “a long, uneven rattle most similar to the Hairy Woodpecker rattle, but harsher, unsteady and chattering.”

Male Belted Kingfisher by Kevin Cole
Male Belted Kingfisher by Kevin Cole

Belted kingfishers are found along the shores of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and marshes. It is slightly larger than a pigeon and resembles a very sturdy Blue Jay. The kingfisher has a crest on its head and a white ring around the neck.

 Our frequent visitor has its favorite perch on the boardwalk pier nearest the nature center. It sits and searches for a meal of unsuspecting minnows that it catches with its long, sharp bill. I have also seen it hover and dive to catch fish.  After a kingfisher catches a fish, it flies back to its perch and throws it up into the air to catch and swallow. 

Female Belted Kingfisher by Mike Baird
Female Belted Kingfisher by Mike Baird

The female is more brightly colored than the male and has chestnut or brick-red coloring on the sides and across the belly. I have either not had my binoculars handy or been looking into the sun when I have spotted our DEEC kingfisher so I haven’t identified its gender yet. Help me out — stop by to have a look and tell me if it is male or female!

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