Ringed KingfisherMegaceryle torquata

adult male
Martin Meyers/VIREO
adult female
Tom J. Ulrich/VIREO
adult
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult male
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult
Greg Lasley/VIREO

Family

Description

Common in the American tropics, the Ringed Kingfisher was considered rare north of Mexico until the 1960s. It is now found commonly along the lower Rio Grande, and locally elsewhere in southern Texas. Larger than our familiar Belted Kingfisher, the Ringed usually hunts from higher perches and takes bigger fish. When going from place to place, it flies high, often following the river, giving a measured tchack...tchack call in flight.

Habitat

Rivers, large streams, ponds; nests in banks. In Texas, most common along Rio Grande in areas where tall trees and brush border the river; also, increasingly, on ponds, streams elsewhere in southern part of state. In the tropics, found around almost any body of fresh water in lowlands, also in mangrove swamps on coast.

Feeding Diet

Mostly fish. Feeds mainly on fish, especially those 2-6" long. Also eats some frogs, small snakes, probably other aquatic creatures.

Feeding Behavior

Seeks its food mostly by perching high (usually 15-35' up, higher than other kingfishers) and watching the water. When it spots a fish (or other prey) close to the surface, it plunges headfirst, catching the fish in its bill. Seldom hovers over the water before diving.

Nesting

In the tropics, sometimes nests in loose colonies where a large dirt bank is especially favorable for nesting. Such sites are not always near water; sometimes in road cuts or other artificial banks more than a mile from water. Apparently nests only as isolated pairs in United States. Nest site is in burrow excavated in steep or vertical dirt bank. Both sexes help to dig burrow, which may be 5-8' long, with an enlarged nest chamber at the end. Little or no nest material added, but debris may accumulate in chamber. Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-6. White. Incubation is by both parents, incubation period not well known. Young: Evidently fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 5 weeks after hatching, are probably cared for by the adults for some time thereafter.

Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. White. Incubation is by both parents, incubation period not well known. Young: Evidently fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 5 weeks after hatching, are probably cared for by the adults for some time thereafter.

Young

Evidently fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 5 weeks after hatching, are probably cared for by the adults for some time thereafter.

Conservation

Has gradually increased and spread in Texas since the 1960s. Widespread and common in the American tropics.

Range

Apparently a permanent resident throughout its range, but individuals may wander widely.

Listen

calls #1
calls #2

Similar Species

adult male

Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher is often first noticed by its wild rattling call as it flies over rivers or lakes. It may be seen perched on a high snag, or hovering on rapidly beating wings, then plunging headfirst into the water to grab a fish. Found almost throughout North America at one season or another, it is the only member of its family to be seen in most areas north of Mexico.

adult

Green Heron

Along quiet streams or shaded riverbanks, a lone Green Heron may flush ahead of the observer, crying "kyow" as it flies up the creek. This small heron is solitary at most seasons and often somewhat secretive, living around small bodies of water or densely vegetated areas. Seen in the open, it often flicks its tail nervously, raises and lowers its crest. The "green" on this bird's back is an iridescent color, and often looks dull bluish or simply dark.

Vireo

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