I was so excited to see my first Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon), that I didn’t care if my pictures turned out crappy. My field guide, Birds of Texas, 2007, by Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy, tells me that if this were a female, she would have a rusty color across her belly. So, I believe this is *Mr.* Kingfisher. And fish.
Mr. Kingfisher was kind enough to turn around, so that I could get a good look at his backside. Quite a handsome bird, and so unique!
When I spotted him, he was pretty far away, but still unmistakable. Even for me – not having seen a kingfisher before – the short legs, large head, and hefty beak made the ID easy. What surprised me was how LARGE he was!
One of the things I love most about watching birds is their behavior. I was giggling with amusement as I watched the kingfisher beat this poor fish against a tree limb over and over. I think the fish must have been senseless after the first thrashing!
What was even more cool, was seeing that the kingfisher actually tossed the fish up to get a different hold, then bash the fish again from another angle. Now that I am telling the story, it sounds a little tough on the fish…but really, it was FASCINATING!
I often refer to a great book, called The Behavior of Texas Birds, 2002, by Kent Rylander. In his book, I learned that what I witnessed is typical Belted Kingfisher behavior:
…[they] beat the fish on a limb, juggle it in the air, then swallow it headfirst.
I didn’t see him swallow the fish, but I know that he got the beat-the-fish-on-a-limb part right! He flew off with his flattened fish, issued a very loud, harsh call, and went out of sight. [big sigh]
I’ll close with the last photo I captured before he left. I’ll be heading out to the same place tomorrow morning, (The Heard, in McKinney, Texas) for bird banding, and I am going to look for him again!