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Kingfishers Of North America

Kingfishers, in the family of Alcedinidaes, are small to medium-sized birds. They can be seen around slow or still water and are mostly brightly colored. There are 87 species of kingfisher globally.

In North America, there are four different kingfisher species. These are the belted kingfisher, green kingfisher, Amazon kingfisher, and ringed kingfisher. 

While the belted kingfisher is the most common around North America, the ringed kingfisher is the largest, while the green kingfisher is the smallest. The Amazon kingfisher rarely visits the United States but has been seen in Texas.

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Belted Kingfisher

Belted kingfisher
Marnejill Flickr CC2.0

The most common of all kingfisher species worldwide, belted kingfishers make their nests by digging into shoreline banks next to water bodies. The sit-and-wait predator looks for its prey from a perch on a branch, pier, or pylon. Making unmethodical beats with their wings, they loudly vocalize if they sense any potential threat. 

The bird lives in inland and coastal habitats while breeding only in North America. The male chooses a breeding spot and courts the female by bringing fish for her and singing. After mating, the pair digs a 3-8 foot burrow in a sandy bank, wherein the female later lays 6-8 eggs.

The species mainly thrives on 9-14 cm long fish while eating berries during winter. Other preys include mollusks, amphibians, crustaceans, nestling birds, lizards, insects, and small rodents.

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Green Kingfisher 

Bernard Dupont Flickr CC2.0

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The Green Kingfisher is the smallest of the kingfishers in North America. They are dark green in color and feature disproportionately long bills. Found along with ponds and rivers, they can be seen watching over creeks, perched on some branch above the water.

The male differs from the female’s orange breast ban, while the female features green markings on her breast. This bird’s white outer tail feathers sport green spots visible in flight. This species is less conspicuous than others and takes low-height flights.

Speaking of breeding, the female lays 3-6 eggs, incubated by the female during the night while both the parents do the task in the daytime. The little ones fledge nearly 27 days after hatching. 

The bird feeds on small aquatic fish, prawns, and crustaceans. In the case of fish scarcity, they eat aquatic insects and dragonfly nymphs. 

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Ringed Kingfisher

Ringed kingfisher
Peter Trimming Flickr CC2.0

The largest kingfisher of North America, this bird features enormous bills and raucous calls. They are marked by a white-collar, rufous belly and shaggy crest. They have brownish-orange breasts but the male sports the color right up to its neck. The bird is conspicuous and nests in burrows made on banks and water bodies. They fly high and search shallow water for food from a perch. 

When mating, the male offers fish to the female before copulation. The pair perform at a spot the male creates calls. The process involves circling above the waters, further dropping into the same. 

Ringed kingfishers take extensive dives into the water and catch larger fish than the Beloved kingfisher can manage. They also thrive on crabs, invertebrates, and crustaceans.

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Amazon Kingfisher 

Amazon Kingfisher
Bernard Dupont Flickr CC2.0

The Amazon Kingfisher is a rare visitor from southern Mexico, Central America, and Southern Mexico’s tropical forests. They have been seen in Texas. This species looks similar to the Green Kingfisher but has a heavier body.

The medium-sized bird is found solo or in pairs at the edges of ponds and along rivers. They have black bills larger than belted kingfishers and come with a more tufted crest.

The bird breeds by streams, while their unlined nests are in a horizontal tunnel on a riverbank. The female lays 3-4 white eggs.

They usually fly at low heights over water bodies. The Amazon kingfisher can often be seen perched on a branch close to water. They plunge their head to catch food before eating their prey. They feed mainly on insects, amphibians, crustaceans, and small reptiles. 

For more information on kingfishers and other birds of North America, I recommend the following field guides.

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