You’ll often hear a belted kingfisher before you ever see one. The foot-long birds native to most impoundments and waterways in Kansas have a high-pitched chatter, and they’re not afraid to use it. Once heard, it’s easily recognized.
It’s the same for their appearance. Kingfishers have a shaggy blue crest when sitting, and a large, pointed bill that is usually very obvious. The contrast between their white chests and blue back and wings is pretty. Females have red bars across their chests. It’s one of few bird species where the female is more colorful than the male.
Kingfishers make their living in Kansas dive-bombing things like small fish, reptiles and crawdads in shallow water. Often they hunt by hovering over the water. Other times they sit on a perch, like a tree limb or utility line, and keep a keen eye on productive areas.
In the River Pond area of Tuttle Creek State Park, a kingfisher was seen making at least a dozen dives, within an hour, into a small area of a small cove. Enlarged photos show it was grabbing inch-long crawdads.
Unlike most birds living around water, belted kingfishers nest in burrows made in dirt banks, rather than in trees or on the ground.