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Belted Kingfisher

Ceryle alcyon

Length: 12 to 14 inches Wingspan: 22 to 26 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Long thick black bill, white neck collar, crested head, blue-gray upperparts

Belted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyonThe Belted Kingfisher can often be spotted on a perch overlooking the water, with its head down as it scans the water below for suitable prey.  They are plunge divers, diving headfirst to grab prey (usually small fish) near the water's surface.  The female (see bottom photo) is actually more colorful than the male (see photo to the right), with a chestnut colored band across the belly that the male lacks.

Habitat: Can be found near practically any aquatic habitat, especially in the winter and the fall.  They are more particular in the summer, when they require aquatic habitats with nearby dirt banks for their nesting burrows.

Diet: Primarily feeds on small fish.  They will also eat other aquatic animals including frogs, tadpoles, crayfish, and aquatic insects.  They occasionally feed away from water and will take mice and other small rodents, lizards, small snakes, and small birds.

Behavior: Observes from a perch over water, plunging head first into the water after prey when spotted.  Also will hover over water in search of prey.

Nesting: May through July

Interactive eBird Map: Click to access an interactive eBird map of Belted Kingfisher sightings

Song: Belted Kingfisher Song

Migration: Summers throughout the U.S. and Canada.  Birds in the northern part of its range usually migrate southward in the fall, but they can be found in winter in the north as long as open water is available.  They are generally a rare occurrence in South Dakota in the winter, however.

Similar Species: Similar to other Kingfishers, but the Belted Kingfisher is the only one found in South Dakota.  In Texas, possibly confused with the Ringed Kingfisher, a much larger species.

Conservation Status: Numbers appear to be stable with slight decreases in parts of its range.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Belted Kingfisher

2) WhatBird - Belted Kingfisher

3) Audubon Guide - Belted Kingfisher

Photo Information: Top Photo (Male): February 9th, 2003 -- Beaver pond on Sergeant Creek in Newton Hills State Park -- Terry Sohl

Bottom Photo (Female): April 5th, 2003 -- Pierre, SD -- Doug Backlund

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Belted Kingfisher photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Belted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyon - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant and uncommon Summer resident throughout the state.  Uncommon winter resident, most common in the southern part of the state.

Additional Belted Kingfisher Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Belted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyon
Belted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyonBelted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyonBelted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyonBelted Kingfisher - Ceryle alcyon