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belted kingfisher

belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) [male]
Photo © Alan Murphy Photography

belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) [female]
Photo © David W. Brewer

Features and Behaviors

An adult belted kingfisher is 11 to 14 inches in length. The male and female are similar in appearance, except that the female has a rust-colored stripe on the chest. Both sexes have a dark, gray stripe at the top of the chest. The back feathers are blue-gray while the chest and belly feathers are white. The head and bill are large in proportion to body size. The feathers on the top of its head stand up or are "spiked.“

The belted kingfisher is a common migrant in Illinois. It is an uncommon summer and winter resident in the state. The kingfisher winters as far south as northern South America. It lives along or around rivers, streams, ponds and lakes. This bird eats mostly fishes that it catches by hovering over the water and waiting for them to appear. It can plunge head first into the water for a fish. This bird has a rattling call. If open water is present, the kingfisher will overwinter in Illinois. Spring migrants begin to return during February or March. Six to eight white eggs are laid during the nesting season of May through June. The nest is placed in a high bank. The bird may burrow up to 15 feet deep in the bank before constructing the nest.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Alcedinidae

Illinois Status: common, native