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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Belted Kingfisher -- Ceryle alcyon

RANGE: Breeds from western and central Alaska, central Yukon, and western and south-central Mackenzie to central Quebec and east-central Labrador south to southern California, southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and central Florida. Winters from south-coastal and southeastern Alaska, central and southern British Columbia, and western Montana across to Nebraska, the southern Great Lakes and New England south to South America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Occurs in the vicinity of ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams, even rocky seacoasts near areas of exposed vertical ground such as bluffs, road cuts, gravel pits, or sandbanks. Prefers small, clear bodies of water to large lakes. In winter, frequents ice-free waters that allow access to food.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Nests preferably within 1 mile of water with low turbidity supporting adequate aquatic animal populations, and perches near water to sight prey.

NEST: Typically excavates a nest burrow 3 to 6 feet, up to 15 feet, deep in a bank with sandy, gravelly, or clay soil. Constructs burrow at least 5 feet above level ground or water, and usually within 3 feet of the top of a bank. Occasionally locates burrow far from water, and at times may have to forage up to 5 miles from the nest site. Builds a nest cavity that is an enlarged area at the end of the burrow, often lined with disgorged food pellets.

FOOD: Feeds primarily on fish averaging 3 to 4 inches, caught by diving into water. Forages from a perch or while hovering over water. Also may eat crayfish, mollusks, frogs, tadpoles, lizards, newts, mice, large insects, and occasionally fleshy fruits.

REFERENCES: Cornwall 1963, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1979, Terres 1930, White 1953.

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