LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- It's Thursday and you know that means Bird of the Week; however this month, we're adding a bit of trivia with it.
This week, we're looking at the Belted Kingfisher.
The Belted Kingfisher is present year-round in Arkansas, though they are much more abundant here in winter.
This species is not easily confused for anything else in Arkansas. It is uniquely built, with a sturdy body, short legs, short tail, and a very large head and bill. It is powder blue above, and white below, with a powder blue band across the chest. The female is the same, except she adds a rusty-colored band across her belly.
They patrol up and down rivers and shorelines, rattling their loud, unique call, and feed almost entirely on aquatic prey. Their diet is primarily made up of fish, but they also eat crayfish, and sometimes opportunistically feed on crustaceans, mollusks, insects, amphibians, reptiles, young birds, small mammals, or even berries.
They hunt by perching over water, and when they spot a fish or crayfish they dive toward the water and grab the prey in their bill with a pincher motion (open-mouthed). It then takes the prey back to its perch, pounds it on the perch, and swallows it head first.
Because they ingest their prey whole, Kingfishers expel pellets of materials that can't be digested such as bones and scales, just as owls do.
Kingfishers spend most of the year alone, and only pair up during the breeding season. The pair will remain monogamous within each breeding season, but pair up with a new mate each year.
Most of these birds nest in extreme northern U.S. and Canada, though some will nest here in Arkansas. Their nests are burrows built into earthen banks without vegetation, generally near water but not always. The burrows can be from one to eight feet long, and are angled upward so that they do not flood when it rains.
This is not a bird that will visit most backyards, unless there is a pond or other water body with fish in it very nearby. They are common along rivers and shorelines across North America, and you will often hear them before you see them. So keep your ears open and your eyes peeled and you will surely spot this species without too much effort on your birding adventures!