Almost every birder who has birded within in the range of Megaceryle alcyon, better known as the Belted Kingfisher, knows the drill. The first moment you are aware of a nearby kingfisher is when you hear its rattling call as it takes off away from you. If you try to get closer looks it just flies again. Eventually, if you persist, it will find a way to get around you and back to its original perch and you find yourself on the banks of a creek or the edge of a lake, having wandered hundreds of meters out of your way, and, if you’re lucky, you might have some long range, lousy pictures to show for it.

You can imagine my utter amazement at my most recent encounter with a Belted Kingfisher.  Not only did I notice her* perched near me before she called, but she noticed me noticing her and DID NOT FLUSH as I worked my way around to get the sun behind me, set my tripod down, got my camera attached to my scope, and started taking pictures.

Not only that, but when she switched perches, which I am convinced had nothing to do with my presence, she let me switch my perch – so to speak – as well and digiscope some more!

Why? Why would a Belted Kingfisher behave in a way that is so out of character?  For one, she was at Van Saun Park, which is not that big a place, and is a park that is pretty well visited by people who aren’t paying much attention to birds, so she may have become acclimated to people passing without molesting her.  Also, after a cold night the night before, there was not a lot of open water suitable for a kingfisher to fish in, so she may been loathe to leave her prime foraging habitat.  She did seem healthy and I later watched her take a fish further downstream, so it seems that she was getting enough to eat.

Whatever the reason was, I certainly enjoyed the chance to get some decent shots of a Belted Kingfisher, finally!

*You can tell a Belted Kingfisher is a female by the orange-ish band across the chest. Males have only the blue.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.