Belted Kingfisher

Megaceryle alcyon
Range Map

This bird’s breeding habitat is near inland bodies of waters or coasts across most of Canada, Alaska and the United States. They migrate from the northern parts of their range to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, the West Indies and northern South America in winter.

Their prolonged rattling call, as they fly from one foraging perch to another, will give them away long before most of us will put eyes on them. These birds are often shy, and difficult to photograph, but if you are lucky, as I once was, you may catch one hovering over a shallow water body prior to its dive to capture a fish.

Belted Kingfishers nest in burrows along river banks, but sometimes will use road-cut cliff banks to dig their nest holes. This recent adaptation has allowed these birds to expand their range into areas previously unused.

Today’s science recognises two subspecies, but not all researchers agree:

  • M. a. alcyon ranges North America east of the Rocky Mountains.
  • M. a. caurina is slightly larger and ranges across western North America.

I’ve met Belted Kingfishers throughout the state of California, from the border with Mexico, to the border with Oregon. In Texas, I’ve captured images from the Lower Rio Grande Valley, through the Central Gulf Coast in Aransas NWR, to the Upper Gulf at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, and San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. I also met them in northern Canada during my epic spring tour in 2022, but those birds eluded my camera.

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