Only one Kingfisher species lives in Canada

Anyone who is around the water at all knows the kingfisher. He seems to be just about everywhere there are fish.
There is only one species of kingfisher in Canada (out of 80 in the world). Ours is the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon).
It has a big head, a heavy beak, and is mostly blue on top. Undersides are white, except for a blue band across the chest.
Strange in the bird world, the female has the extra colour—an additional chest band—and side markings of reddish brown.
The kingfisher has a slick way of fishing. He spots a fish near the surface of the water, pauses in the air above it to take aim, then dives like an arrow right into and under the water.
He emerges almost immediately with his catch.
Watch how he handles that fish. First, he will stun it by hitting its head on a branch several times, then he will toss it into the air, catch it headfirst, and swallow it whole.
He often will catch a fish as big as, or bigger than, he is. In that case, he swallows what he can and sits on a branch with the tail of the fish sticking out.
His digestion works fast, however, and soon the fish’s head is in the birds innards—and the rest of the fish can be swallowed.
I would imagine most fishermen have seen kingfishers on the shores of our lakes or rivers. He likes to sit on a dead tree, a post, or a bare branch over, or very near, the water.
Usually his method is to fly out right over the fish, hover still in the air, and get a dead aim in his prey.
The usual diet of the kingfisher is small fish, minnows, sculpins, and the like. It seems very few gamefish are taken. If fish become unavailable, it can make do with clams, frogs, beetles, crayfish, and so on.
For a nest, the kingfisher makes a burrow in a bank and that’s about all. The parents don’t do anything at all for comfort, but eventually the young birds get surrounded by a mound of regurgitated fish bones.
This tunnel may be anywhere from three to 15 feet long.
The kingfisher breeds all the way from the Yukon to the Maritimes.
No other bird has a harsh, grating rattle for a song. On top of that, it’s pretty hard to mistake that thick-headed blue and white fishing bird.
Incidentally “Alcyon,” the second part of its scientific name, comes from mythology. Alcyone, one of the minor people of mythology, lost her husband in a shipwreck.
She was so upset that she threw herself into the sea and drowned.
But the kind gods turned them both into kingfishers and when the kingfishers nest, the sea is always calm and the weather fine.
We still refer to that kind of weather as the “halcyon days.”

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