Belted Kingfishers are the only kingfisher we have here in South Carolina. About the size of a robin, these black and white birds with an expressive top crest can most often be found perching on overhanging branches, snags, or wires, scanning the water for prey. Favorite fun fact: a group of kingfishers is called either a crown (get it?) or a rattle, which makes sense based on their chattery call.
Usually when it comes to bird species, the male is more brightly colored, but the Belted Kingfisher is an exception to that rule. Males are almost all white on the underside but females have markings of deep rust.
We see them year round on Dewees Island, except for a few months during the breeding season. My theory is that we don’t have mud banks tall enough to accommodate their tunnel nests, but ever since we re-engineered the wetland with that berm, I have been hoping some will stick around for nesting.
I love to watch them hover in mid-air, and then plummet to the water in search of a fish.
Often it’s the chatter that gets my attention first, as they chase intruders out of their territories or fuss at us if we interrupt them by driving by.
Nature Observations: Belted Kingfisher
As you observe these birds, think about how they perch, how they hover, and what they are looking for. What parts of their body move when they are balancing? Which parts stay still? Can you balance on one foot and keep your head still? What about moving your arms? What position would you draw them in in a nature journal? What are your observations? Do the males move or act differently than the females? What do you think their body language might be communicating? Based on these videos, what habitat requirements do you think they need? Can you name some of the vegetation they’re sitting on?