Foam Lake Birding No. 74

No. 74
We have had another week of unseasonably cold and wet weather. At times temperatures have dropped to a low of 4C and day time highs of 15C. Add to that the misty rainy weather and the result is that the furnace has been running. On the plus side, none of this seems to have affected the birds in any way.
This week I am writing about another group of birds that I have never covered before – the kingfishers. There are many species of kingfishers scattered throughout the world, but probably the most widely known is the Kookaburra of Australia. It derives its fame from its loud call that resembles a hysterical laugh, hence the nickname of Laughing Jackass.
Kingfishers are so named because of their feeding habits. The normal pattern has the bird sitting on a branch overlooking a body of water containing small fish. Fence, telephone and electrical lines are also utilized if water is present. Once a fish is spotted, the bird flies out directly over the fish, then, dives straight down head first catching the fish under water. Occasionally, a kingfisher will look for fish by flying low over the water rather than sitting on a branch waiting for the fish to come.
In North America there are three species of kingfishers but only one, the Belted, is common all over the continent. It is the bird that was featured on the back of the former Canadian five dollar bill. The other two, the Ringed and Green, are common only in the southern tip of Texas. This week’s featured bird, the Green Kingfisher, can occasionally be found in southern Arizona also. All three dig out burrows in river banks or similar sites for nesting.
The Green Kingfisher is different from the other two on several counts. The females of the Belted and Ringed are more brightly coloured than the males, which is highly unusual in the world of birds. On the other hand, the male Green is more brightly coloured than the female. In flight, the Belted and Ringed are noisy making loud rattling calls while the Green is usually silent. Dimensionally, the Ringed is the largest approaching a chicken in size; the Belted is smaller being only a little larger than a robin; the Green is the smallest being sparrow sized with an oversized head and beak. Three years ago, we saw all three kingfishers at the same time from the same spot. This sort of “trifacta” is very unusual and we consider ourselves extremely lucky to have experienced it.
Of the three kingfishers, I have photos of the Green only which explains why it is the featured bird and not one of the other two. The first photo shows a female in its natural pose looking for some minnows in the water below. The second photo shows a Green Kingfisher and Great Kiskadee fishing together as it were. (Refer to article 38 for an in depth discussion on the Great Kiskadee.) It is not often I can get a picture like this, so I just had to include it in this article.