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Breeding Birds: Belted Kingfisher

October 27, 1989|Clipboard researched by Elena Brunet, Susan Davis Greene and Janice L. Jones / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Thomas Penix / Los Angeles Times

BELTED KINGFISHER (Ceryle alcyon Linnaeus) Description: Stocky and short-legged with a large head and bill. Both male and female have slate blue breast band. Female has rust belly band and flanks. Both have white bellies and undertails. Juveniles resemble adult but have rust spotting in breast band. Habitat: Common and conspicuous along rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, estuaries and near woodland streams. Diet: Aquatic inverts, amphibians, reptiles, insects, young birds, mice; rarely berries. Also oysters and squid on coast. Young are fed regurgitant. Displays: Prolonged rapid succession of mewing calls by both male and female. Nest: Horizontal (or slightly upward-sloping) burrow in vertical bank near water; prefer soil with high sand, low clay composition. Male and female alternately dig and remove detritus. Nest chamber holds grass or leaf saucer. On occasion make nest in tree cavity. Eggs: White; about 1 1/4 inch long. Natural history notes: Nestlings cling together and can maintain body heat in a group six days after birth; lone nestling requires 16 days before it can do so. Mates can recognize each other by distinctive calls given when approaching nest. After fledging, parents teach fishing to perched young by dropping dead meals into water for retrieval; at 10 days post-fledging young catch live food and are forced from parental territory. Are solitary birds except in nesting season; defend individual feeding territories. Size is inversely correlated with food abundance. The kingfisher's generic name, Ceryle, comes from the Greek for seabird. The second part of the generic name, alcyon, also from the Greek, was the mythological name of a woman so aggrieved after her husband drown that the gods turned them both into kingfishers. Breeding bird atlas: To report bird breeding activity in your neighborhood, or to get information on the breeding bird atlas (now in its fifth and final year), call Sea and Sage Audubon Society members Sylvia Gallagher, (714) 962-8990, or Nancy Kenyon, (714) 786-3160. Note: Map is divided into 5-kilometer squares so that Audubon Society volunteers can more easily survey areas on a regular basis. Sources: Sea and Sage Audubon Society; "The Birder's Handbook," Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye, Fireside Books (1988); "Field Guide to the Birds of North America," National Geographic Society (1987); "Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution," Garrett and Dunn, Los Angeles Audubon Society (1981).

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