By Karie Harding, Naturalist, Metea County Park
There are many trails that lead to Cedar Creek at Metea County Park. If you have the opportunity (and bug spray) to sit at one of the overlooks found near the creek, keep your eyes open for our resident belted kingfishers. These magnificent birds can be found perched on branches overlooking the creek. The branches provide a perfect perch for these birds to dive into the relatively clear water for small fish, crayfish or sometimes frogs. Kingfishers may also be seen pounding their prey on their perch to kill it before it is eaten.
The belted kingfisher is a medium-sized bird, 11-14 inches, has a large head with a shaggy crest, and a large beak. It is a bluish color with a white ring around its neck. The male kingfisher has a white belly, while the female has a red chest band and flanks. Unlike most birds, the female kingfisher is more brightly colored than the male. It has a distinctive call, sounding much like a harsh rattle.
The kingfisher digs a hole into the steep bank of a creek or river to form its nest chamber, usually in the same vicinity as hunting territory. The male and female both dig the nest until the tunnel is about six inches in diameter and six feet long. A chamber is dug at the end where the eggs are laid. This process usually takes about 3 to 7 days. The female will then lay 5-8 eggs in this chamber. These eggs take around 22 days to incubate and the young will hatch the same day within hours of one another.
These interesting birds are often seen flying or perching near Andrew Britton Overlook at Metea’s south (main) site. Sometimes they show up at the pond near the nature center. They can also be seen at Metea North near the gnarly, old, lopsided oak and Aldo Leopold benches. See if you can find or hear this bird!