Other Birds - Sounds Wild
The Fisher King


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The Fisher King

With a blur of blue, grey and white, a belted kingfisher streaks across a boat harbor to intercept another kingfisher intruding on its territory. It's the breeding season, and this bird is defending two territories, its favorite hunting area in the harbor, and its nest site almost a mile away.

The kingfisher is a familiar bird found near water across North America. Perched on a branch or dock piling, the kingfisher resembles a Stellers jay, with a crested head and large bill - but kingfishers aren't related to Jays. There are 84 species of kingfisher worldwide - most live in Asia - and only three in North America. The belted kingfisher is by far the most common and widespread. It's named for the blue band across its white chest. The female can be easily distinguished from the male - she has a second, reddish brown belt below the blue one.

The bird swoops from her perch - she's spotted a salmon fry just below the surface of the harbor. Hovering above the fish, she takes aim, then plunges into the water, disappearing completely below the surface. She bursts from the water with a wriggling three-inch long fish in her beak. She returns to her perch and swings the fish hard by its tail, smacking it against the piling a few times to kill it. Then she takes off for her nest to feed her waiting babies.

The kingfisher nests in a burrow it excavates in a sand or gravel embankment, digging a tunnel three to seven feet deep with a nest chamber in the back.