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Birds of the Western Slope Nov. 29, 2017

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Photo by Bill Schmoker© A female kingfisher, in June in Wisconsin. Kingfisher are often seen in Delta County, fishing along the banks of the Gunnison or around Confluence Lake.

Belted Kingfisher

And I believe that winter is really here ... It has been gray all day and I can still see the last snow on Craig's Crest. I'm not really a fan of winter weather! But it's here anyway. And I had a phone call from Sheila. Corrigan yesterday. She had seen a neat bird as she was walking along the Surface Creek Trail last week. I've seen this bird a number of times and decided to write it up for the DCI.

So I checked Bill Schmoker's birds on line, and I found a photo of the female kingfisher. First off, with most species of birds, the male is more colorful, but with kingfishers the female sports a rust or reddish band which is not found in the male bird (all he gets is a plain blue band). The head crest is very obvious as are the tiny feet. When Shelia was describing the bird, she mentioned that it didn't have much for feet!

In Sibley's Guide to Birds, he shows the smaller Green Kingfisher (at eight inches), the larger Ringed Kingfisher (at 16 inches) as well as our Belted King-fisher (at 13 inches). The Green Kingfisher is found in Mexico and the larger Ringed Kingfisher is along the eastern Mexico coast. Our Belted Kingfisher is over the entire North American continent.

A number of years ago, I was fortunate to see this bird hovering over a wet area just below Aspen Trails Resort. The bird flew from the power line above and hovered for a brief time. Then it plunge-dived into the water and came up with a tiny, silvery object -- a minnow! I saw a similar hunting technique along a small river near the Bosque del Apache (90 miles south of Albuquerque). That little five-ounce bird wasn't so lucky. No catch.

Also there was a kingfisher along the Gunnison River that I was able to observe (before there was so much traffic). The little bird made several hovering maneuvers and then the plunge-dive technique. He was somewhat successful before we had to move off of the bridge.

I've read a good deal about this small bird with the over-sized bill. The pair often drill into a bank with the three-foot "tunnel" slanting upward as a hedge against flooding. The pair teaches the young by dropping tidbits into the water for the young ones to retrieve. I'd love to see that!

Names always fascinate me, and the scientific label for our little 5-ounce bird is Ceryle alcyo. Both words relate to a mythical bird that the Greek gods favored. Supposedly, the birds nested at sea and the gods calmed the waves for them. Thus beautiful, calm days were known as "halcyon days." I've heard this term, but I never related it to the kingfisher. And I do thank Mrs. Corrigan for her neat bird!

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Birds of the Western Slope, Evelyn Horn
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