22-28 June 2000

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Photos © Hilton Pond Center

  • In an effort to show there's lots more to Piedmont nature than just birds, we try not to showcase feathered creatures in every installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond." For 15-21 June we featured a Red-shouldered Hawk netted and banded at Hilton Pond Center, but we still couldn't resist writing again this week about another very interesting bird--a Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon.
  • For the past few weeks, at least one kingfisher has been showing up at Hilton Pond, usually as we walked around the pond near dusk to furl mist nets after a day of banding. Often, we wouldn't see the bird until accidentally spooking it from a perch on the pond perimeter, after which it would fly to another low branch on the opposing bank. On the evening of 22 June, a kingfisher finally flew into a net on the dam that forms the pond, and there was just enough daylight left to take the accompanying photos.
  • Kingfishers are interesting birds to watch in nature, and they're even more amazing in the hand. Most close-up photos you see on this Web site were made while the bander was holding a bird high on its legs--the so-called "photographer's grip"; there was NO way we would use that technique and give a kingfisher enough room to turn its head. Although the kingfisher doesn't peck like woodpeckers or tear like small birds of prey, it DOES have the ability to clamp down VERY hard with its long, straight bill--just what you might expect from a bird that has to hold tightly a fish it grabs after diving into the water. (Not coincidentally, the kingfisher's massive head serves as an anchor for powerful muscles that enable the mandibles to open and shut with force; to make matters worse, kingfisher bills are also somewhat serrated, and as we know from experience the saw-tooth edges bring considerable pain when they grab the bander's finger. Ouch!)
  • The Belted Kingfisher is the only kingfisher in the eastern United States. It is a crested, blue-backed bird with a blue belly band that gives it its common name. Unlike most birds, the female Belted Kingfisher (right) is more brightly colored than the male; a second rust-colored belly band parallels the blue one on her breast. Kingfishers are also unusual in that they burrow several feet into earthen embankments and excavate a nest chamber that is bound to be odoriferous from all the fish adults bring the young.
  • Our 22 June capture was only the ninth Belted Kingfisher ever captured at Hilton Pond Center and the first since September 1995. Two were banded in 1987, one each in 1989 and 1994, and one in each month from August-October 1993.

All maps, text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Be sure to scroll down for an account of all
birds banded or recaptured during the period,
plus other nature notes of interest.

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"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written & photographed
by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

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22-28 June 2000

Eastern (Rufous-sided) Towhee (fledgling female)
(Very young birds have fine streaking on breast; fledgling males and females look almost alike, except central tail feathers are black in males, dark brown in females; juveniles also have a muddy brown eye that in adult males turns bright red, orange, or--in some populations--pure white)

Plus the following species not pictured
(or pictured on other weekly pages):

Acadian Flycatcher
Belted Kingfisher
(see above)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including all articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.