Meet the Regal Belted Kingfisher Bird

Updated: Nov. 16, 2022

Learn to identify a belted kingfisher. See what the male and females look like, and find out what their call sounds like and if they migrate.

What Does a Belted Kingfisher Bird Look Like?

belted kingfisherCourtesy Richard Buquoi
A female belted kingfisher has a brownish orange markings on the belly.

Like flycatchers, kingfishers perch on treetops or exposed branches to survey their surroundings. The hefty body, thick bill and shaggy crest are all features to look for. With enough practice, you’ll soon be able to recognize the distinctive silhouette of a kingfisher from across a pond. Belted kingfishers are distributed widely across North America. Both males and females are blue-gray with bright white bellies and blue chest bands. It’s important to note that the queen always outshines her mate; females sport a rufous belly band that is lacking in males.

See 20 photos of breathtaking blue colored birds.

Belted Kingfisher Call

275143765 1 Pauline Medori Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Pauline Medori
Kingfisher have a distinctive rattling call.

Keep in mind that you’re apt to hear the machine-gun rattle of a kingfisher’s call long before you spot one. Chattering noisily, they patrol the water’s edge.

What does a mourning dove call sound like?

What Does a Belted Kingfisher Eat?

250649317 1 Jeff Crawn Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Jeff Crawn
Belted kingfisher diving for fish

These birds stay close to the water, making a meal of small fish and other aquatic critters like crayfish, tadpoles and insects.

Learn all about insect eating birds.

Other Types of Kingfishers

The green kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana) occurs from southern Texas in the USA south through Central and South America to central Argentina. Found in the Pantanal of Brazil.Gerald Corsi/Getty Images
Green kingfisher

Two other species of kingfishers reach the southern border of the United States. The ringed kingfisher looks like an oversize belted kingfisher with a rich chestnut brown belly. The green kingfisher is a smaller species that is a striking iridescent emerald green, with a green breast band on females and a brown one on males.

Belted Kingfisher Migration and Range

belted kingfisherCourtesy Sandy Ford
Male belted kingfisher

Q: “Do kingfishers migrate or do they stay in their home territories?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Holly Harnly of Myerston, Pennsylvania.

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman: Belted kingfishers are found almost everywhere in North America in one season or another. In most of Canada and Alaska, they are present only in summer, while they appear only in winter in southern Florida and along the Mexican border. Some migrate long distances south in fall, even reaching South America.

However, across most of the Lower 48, kingfishers can be seen throughout the year. They’re partial migrants, which means that some individuals stay put, while some leave in autumn and are replaced by others coming from farther north. To survive winter, they need access to water that doesn’t freeze, so they can continue fishing.

Psst—did you know the kingfisher is the Birth Month Bird for August?