by Larry Czajkoski
Almost comical in proportion, the Belted Kingfisher has an oversized crested head and a heavy spear like bill, but diminutive feet. It cannot walk, but rather only shuffle, and it relies entirely on flight for most of its locomotion. Both male and female have a slate blue breast band, white belly and undertail coverts. The female has a rust belly band and flanks. This female, who I photographed on the shoreline of a pond in December, was perched on a tree branch and carefully eyeing some lunch. Just a moment after this photo was taken she took off and hovered above the water, suspending herself in midair for several seconds, before closing her wings and plunging bill-first into the water to catch her prey. Look for this bird year round in North Carolina near clear running streams, lakes, ponds and marshes by listening for her piercing rattle call, usually given as she takes flight.