Belted Kingfishers (Ceryle alcyon) are a charismatic bird species that occur throughout much of North America. They are typically seen perching over clear, open water and plunge-diving for their food. Their favored food is fish, but they are also known to eat crustaceans, such as crayfish. Kingfishers have a loud and distinctive rattle call, which makes them easy to locate.
While they are widely distributed, kingfishers aren’t typically abundant in any one area as a breeding species because nest sites are limited by the availability of sandy cliffs or river banks suitable for nest burrow excavation. They are also very territorial – protecting their favored fishing holes from other kingfishers.
Sea level rise and storms are changing cliff habitats on Martha’s Vineyard. While kingfishers have been a breeding bird on the Vineyard since records were first kept, we don’t have any estimates of numbers of breeding pairs. In the summer of 2012, we hope to gather this information with island-wide nest cavity surveys.
Some swallow species share nesting habitat with kingfishers. While surveying for kingfisher nest cavities, we will also be mapping all of the swallow colonies we find. On the Vineyard, we have nesting colonies of bank swallows (Riparia riparia) and possibly a few northern rough-wing swallows (Stelgidopteryx serripennis). We are excited to get into the field and start mapping.
If you are interested in volunteering to survey for nest cavities of kingfishers and swallows, please visit our Volunteer page for more information. If you are a landowner with nesting belted kingfishers, and you would like us to include your property in our surveys, please contact us here.