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Belted Kingfisher, Laure Wilson Neish
Photo © Laure Wilson Neish

Photo: Laure Wilson Neish
Breeding evidence - Belted Kingfisher
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Belted Kingfisher
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Belted Kingfisher
Elevation plot

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Belted Kingfisher
Megaceryle alcyon
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 1305 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
207 147 735 193
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -1.93 (-2.93 - -0.861)Medium
Canada1970 - 2012 -1.5 (-2.14 - -0.92)High

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.060.02 0.050.06 0.08
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.060.03 0.020.07 0.05
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.080.05 0.06  0.1

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
 0.09 0.08
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.08 0.06 
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range This spectacular, large kingfisher with its outrageous "Mohawk" crest and startling staccato rattling call is one of North America's most widespread birds. It breeds across the continent from the Low Arctic south to the United States Southern Coastal Plains and arid southwest. It is a partial migrant; northern breeders migrate south to winter in ice-free areas, some moving as far as Central America and the Caribbean (Kelly et al. 2009).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Atlas surveys show the Belted Kingfisher is still widespread throughout the province; comparison with The Birds of British Columbia indicates there has been no appreciable change in distribution, provincially or locally, over the past two decades.

The Probability of Observation model highlights several most likely places to find the bird: valley systems around Vancouver Island, in the southern Coast Mountains, on Haida Gwaii, in the Stikine and Taku river basins in the northwest, and parts of the Columbia and Duncan river drainages in the West Kootenay. Whilst point counts are not the best technique for sampling this bird's linear wetland habitat, they do suggest the lowest lying valleys (below 250 m elevation) in the Coast and Mountains and Southern Interior Mountains ecoprovinces also support the highest abundance. Extensive areas of moderate PObs values (but lower abundance) occur across the wetland-studded plateaus of the Central Interior and Sub-boreal Interior ecoprovinces.

Belted Kingfishers prefer clear, fresh or salt water wetlands, especially with rocky shoals and shallower fast-flowing sections, in close proximity to natural or man-made exposed banks where they can excavate nest burrows, and with abundant perches from which they can forage for prey, chiefly fish, but also crayfish and other larger aquatic invertebrates.

Conservation and Recommendations The Breeding Bird Survey shows a long-term decrease in Belted Kingfishers, across Canada and in British Columbia; reasons for the decline are not well understood, but declining habitat quality, contaminants, reduction in available nest sites (especially man-made sites like gravel pits, road cuts and quarry sites), and human disturbance are all potential contributors.

Peter J. A. Davidson

Recommended citation: Davidson, P.J.A. 2015. Belted Kingfisher in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Jul 2024]

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