Language English Photo: claudelafondphoto.com Photo: Biodôme OngletsDescriptionDistinguishing featuresThe belted kingfisher is the same size as a pigeon, with a greyish blue back and a white breast. It is easy to identify, with its large blue crested head. It also has a straight, pointed bill and a broad blue band across its breast. The female also has a second, cinnamon-coloured breast band. ReproductionThese birds live in pairs only during the breeding period. They sometimes build their nests some distance away from water. The nest is a burrow, one or two metres long, in a sandbank or in roadside fill. The female lays 5 to 14 white eggs in a chamber at the end of the burrow, directly on the floor. Incubation takes 23 or 24 days. DietThese birds eat mainly small fish less than 10 cm long, along with molluscs, crayfish, insects, frogs, garter snakes, birds and sometimes small mammals. Like raptors, they regurgitate pellets of fish scales and bones. PredatorsDeep inside the nest, the offspring are fairly safe from predators. Skunks, minks and raccoons do eat the eggs sometimes, however. The adults may be attacked during moulting season by raptors like buzzards and sparrowhawks. HabitatThey frequent lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, marshes, fish farming ponds, lagoons and the St. Lawrence River shoreline, in both fresh and salt water. Rocky embankments, particularly along roadsides and railway lines, and sandbanks are important nesting sites. In addition, these birds need to find a high perch, like a tree or post, for surveying their surroundings. Fewer kingfishers are apt to nest in areas with fewer rocky embankments. Ecology, behaviourThese birds can often be seen perched patiently at the top of a tree or flying over water. Once they spot their prey, they dive to catch it. Kingfishers do not appear to do any harm to fish populations. This species usually migrates, except in regions where strong currents prevent rivers from freezing over. French nameMartin-pêcheur d'Amérique Scientific nameMegaceryle alcyonPhylumChordataClassBirdsOrderCoraciiformesFamilyAlcedinidaeSize28 to 38 cmWeight125 to 215 gStatusLeast Concern (IUCN). Common species.