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This Week’s Creature Feature: The Loud-Mouthed ­Kingfisher 

These birds like to announce their presence 

 

      Belted kingfishers are common along Maryland’s waterways. But each has a large hunting territory so they are spread out. They seem to fight constantly over space and don’t tolerate one another. They also don’t tolerate people and can be heard screaming what sound like bird obscenities as they fly from human approaches. They also vocalize as they move from one perch to another, announcing their presence to every other animal in the area.

     This is one of the few bird species whose female has more colors than the male. She has a red belt across a white chest that makes a good contrast to the dark-bluish back, wings and tail. The male has no markings on a white chest and shares the darker back, wings and tail. They are about the size of a bluejay and have a large spear-like bill. The spear is used like a pincher as they drop into water catching small fish, crayfish or frogs. 

     The birds fish by perching on a branch over water waiting for prey to come close. When they grab a fish, they will frequently beat it before swallowing it whole, head first. 

     The birds use their large bill to dig out a large nesting hole in a sand or clay bank. They lay three to six eggs in each of two clutches. By the end of the summer, the young are ready to fly south for the winter, but many adults stay behind. Flowing water doesn’t freeze, and some of our local kingfishers spend the winter next to rivers or streams.