| Aug 21, 2008

Outdoors - August 21, 2008

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Outdoors in the LandO'Lakes - August 21, 2008 The Belted Kingfisher Outdoors in the Land O'Lakes by Lorraine Julien Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes(Public Domain)

Keep an eye out when you’re canoeing or kayaking and you may be lucky enough to see the cheeky Belted Kingfisher.

We love to kayak, especially on Kashwakamak Lake with its many islands. It’s also a great habitat for birds such as the Belted Kingfisher. These birds love to sit on overhanging branches at the water’s edge watching for the next meal to come by. Usually the perch is high enough that they have a good view of what is in, on or near the water.

I’ve seen this chunky bird swoop down from a branch, skimming gracefully and swiftly just a few inches above the water. Alternatively, they sometimes fly to a considerable height where they seem to hang in the air before plunging at a seemingly reckless speed after some hapless prey.

The Kingfisher is easy to recognize, as its profile is unlike that of any other bird I’ve seen. It has a large head with a shaggy crest and a big heavy bill. Overall, it is slate blue with a large white collar. Interestingly, this is one of the few birds where the female is more colourful than the male. In addition to the blue and white markings of the male, she has a reddish brown (chestnut) band that extends across the white chest and down the flanks.

It is a stocky bird that measures up to 14” long with a wingspan up to 23”.

In the mid-eighties, the Canadian Mint produced $5.00 Canadian bills with the Belted Kingfisher depicted on one side.

Kingfishers prefer to nest in a steep, earthen waterside bank. It’s not really a nest but rather a tunnel that is carved out with their bills – as long as 15 feet! The tunnels are used over again, year after year and must certainly be cozy and weathertight. The 5-8 white eggs are laid on bare ground near the end of the tunnel.

Once the young leave the nest at 33-38 days, they quickly learn to fish for themselves and adapt the “loner” lifestyle of other Kingfishers. Their menu consists of small fish, salamanders, tadpoles and frogs.

Kingfishers migrate south as soon as the water freezes; however, in some parts of its North American range it may not bother to migrate as long as the fishing is good and the water does not freeze.

Please feel free to report any observations to to Steve Blight at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Lorraine Julien at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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