Bird of the Week: Belted Kingfisher

Photo by Jonah Rohlfing

Photo by Jonah Rohlfing

Species: Belted Kingfisher, or Megaceryle alcyon

Family: Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

Star sign: Aries

Rating: 11/10

Ideal Date: Ordering you to be hanged for daring to ask it out

The Belted Kingfisher is well suited to its name. It spends its days lording over its domain—which consists of a body of water and the vegetation which borders it—and giving off loud, chittering calls as it flies from branch to branch, announcing itself to any would-be invaders. Anyone who dare challenge its authority will be met with resistance, since these fierce friends defend their territory from other Kingfishers with great zeal. They need the land, after all, since they hunt by diving into lakes from high-up perches and snatching up the most delicious fish and crayfish with their thick beaks. In fact, these birds are so antisocial that they spend their whole lives alone, only forming alliances with their peers during breeding season to produce heirs to their throne.

But what truly sets this stately species apart from other bird species is the fact that, unlike the vast majority of feathery friends, female Kingfishers are more colorful than males; they have fashionable chestnut-brown bands on their stomachs which male Kingfishers lack. They defend their territory just as vigorously as their male counterparts, all while looking great. Perhaps the Belted Queenfisher would be a more fitting name for these powerful friends!

Here in the canyon there is one Belted Kingfisher—and yes, she does indeed gaslight, gatekeep, and girlboss. Madam Kingfisher can be found patrolling around the edge of Reed Lake, typically west of the Blue Bridge, constantly emitting rattling, Perry the Platypus-esque calls. She’s stocky, about the size of two jays standing next to each other. Her stomach and lower head are white whilst her back and the top of her head are cobalt blue, her neck is encircled in a blue band, and naturally she possesses her very own iconic chestnut belly stripe. Spiky feathers stick out of her almost cartoonishly-large head like a crown, and her bill is big and black. Belted Kingfishers can be found in Oregon throughout the entire year, but it’s possible that in a few months, the one in the canyon will be a completely different individual. Our current Lady Kingfisher may conquer greener pastures, abdicate, or be driven out by a coup d’etat.

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