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Belted Kingfisher

Megaceryle alcyon Order CORACIIFORMES - Family ALCEDINIDAE
Summary Detailed
For complete Life History Information on this species, visit Birds of North America Online.

Belted Kingfisher, male
Belted Kingfisher, male
About the photographs
Belted Kingfisher, female
Belted Kingfisher, female
  1. Description
  2. Sound
  3. Conservation Status
  4. Other Names
  5. Cool Facts
  6. Full detailed species account

A common waterside resident throughout North America, the Belted Kingfisher is often seen hovering before it plunges headfirst into water to catch a fish. It frequently announces its presence by its loud rattling cry.


  • Medium-sized bird.
  • Large head and shaggy crest.
  • Large, thick bill.
  • Bluish head and back.
  • White throat and collar.
  • White underneath with blue breast band.

  • Size: 28-35 cm (11-14 in)
  • Wingspan: 48-58 cm (19-23 in)
  • Weight: 140-170 g (4.94-6.0 ounces)

Sex Differences

Female with red chest band and flanks, male without.


Call a loud, harsh rattle.

»listen to songs of this species

Conservation Status

Populations may be decreasing in many areas.

Other Names

Martin-pêcheur d'Amérique (French)
Martín Pescador Norteño, Martín Pescador Migratorio, Martín Pescador Pasajero (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The breeding distribution of the Belted Kingfisher is limited in some areas by the availability of suitable nesting sites. Human activity, such as road building and digging gravel pits, has created banks where kingfishers can nest and allowed the expansion of the breeding range.

  • The Belted Kingfisher is one of the few bird species in which the female is more brightly colored than the male. Among the 93 species of kingfishers, the sexes often look alike. In some species the male is more colorful, and in others the female is.

  • During breeding season the Belted Kingfisher pair defends a territory against other kingfishers. A territory along a stream includes just the streambed and the vegetation along it, and averages 1 km (0.6 mi) long.The nest burrow is usually in a dirt bank near water. The tunnel slopes upward from the entrance, perhaps to keep water from entering the nest. Tunnel length ranges from 30 to 250 cm (1 to 8 ft).

Sources used to construct this page:

Hamas, M. J. 1994. Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). In The Birds of North America, No. 84 (A. Poole, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

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