Kingfishers of Texas (3 Species to Know)

Kingfishers are fascinating birds that specialize in catching and eating fish. Texas has some of the most unique kingfisher species in all of North America. Here is everything you need to know about those species.

Belted Kingfisher

Male Belted Kingfisher (Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Southwest Region)
Female Belted Kingfisher (Photo by USFWS Midwest Region)
Identification

Belted Kingfishers are short, compact birds with large pointed bills. Males are grayish blue with a large crest, a white underside, and a grayish blue band across their chest. Females look similar to the males but have rust on their sides and a second band (rust colored) underneath the blue chest band. Both males and females have a white spot near their eye on each side of the head.

Range

Belted Kingfishers winter in Northern South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Southern United States. In spring they migrate north throughout most on the United States, Canada, and Alaska where they spend the summer. Some Belted Kingfishers stay in the Northern United States year round provided there is open water.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Belted Kingfishers are primarily fish-eaters, choosing to eat fish that are on the medium to small side such as sticklebacks and various minnows. They find and catch prey by sitting high on a perch and scanning for fish by sight. Once they spot something they want, they dive in head first and use their bill to grab onto the food item. In addition to fish, Belted Kingfishers will also eat amphibians, reptiles, crustaceans, and small mammals.

Where to Find This Bird

Belted Kingfishers can be found near water including rivers, ponds, streams, and lakes. Clear water is most optimal for kingfishers as they need to be able to see prey in order to catch it. Listen for this species making its rattling call and look for them swooping low as they fly from perch to perch.

Green Kingfisher

Female Green Kingfisher (Photo by Justin LeClaire)
Identification

Green Kingfishers are relatively small birds with comparatively large bills. They are aptly named for their emerald green color on their head, back, wings, and tail. Males have bright Buffy orange on their chest and females have a dark green strap across their chest. Both males and females have a white color from their chest to the back of their neck.

Range

Green Kingfishers live year round in most of South America, Central America, and Mexico. In the continental United States, the Southern most portions of Arizona and Texas are some of the few places to find this species.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Unlike other species of kingfishers that hunt from high perches, Green Kingfishers hunt from low perches near the waters edge and dive diagonally into the water to catch fish. The majority of this species diet consists of small freshwater fish which they swallow whole. Green Kingfishers frequent small streams and areas with tangled branches more than othe kingfisher species.

Where to Find This Bird

Green Kingfishers can be found near slow moving or still water. They prefer clear water as they are sight hunters and need to see the fish to be able to catch them. Look for areas with tangles and branches just above the surface of the water and keep an eye out for one of these small green birds.

Ringed Kingfisher

Male Ringed Kingfisher
Female Belted Kingfisher (Photo by Justin LeClaire)
Identification

Ringed Kingfishers look something like an oversized belted Kingfisher as they have a blue head, crest, back, and tail. Unlike Belted Kingfishers, the underside of the Ringed Kingfisher is a reddish brown color. Almost the entire underside of male ringed kingfishers is this chestnut color while females have a blue bib lined in white in addition to chestnut. Both males and females have a white ring around their neck and a noticeable blue crest.

Range

Ringed Kingfishers are year round residents throughout most of South and Central America (with the exception of the Western coastline). This species can also be found in the Eastern part of Mexico and the most southern parts of Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.

Diet and Foraging Habits

Ringed Kingfishers specialize in catching small fish but will also eat crustaceans, reptiles, amphibians, and even small mammals. Most of the Ringed Kingfishers hunting occurs in shallow fresh water where they will dive from rather high up perches to grab prey.

Where to Find This Bird

Look for Ringed Kingfishers in clear, slower moving water with perches above the water for them to sit on These perches can be natural or manmade as Ringed Kingfishers have few qualms about living near humans. Larger bodies of water will be better suited to this species than small streams.

Summary

Kingfishers are unique birds that occupy a very specific niche in the ecosystem. Hopefully this post has helped answer some of your questions about the Kingfishers of Texas.

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and a comment. Also be sure to check out the Badgerland Birding Youtube Channel

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