My Spark Bird—The Belted Kingfisher

Taken on Jekyll Island, GA – December 2019

I spent a number of years growing up in Nashville, Georgia—a super small town just north of the Georgia/Florida line. There was a pond close to my house and my dad and I would head out there so he could fish. I would do kid things like throw rocks into the water or collect algae on a stick and poke it with my finger.  

One very distinct memory I have of those trips is the resident Belted Kingfisher that lived around the pond. My dad would point it out, hovering over the water before plunging downward, splashing after it’s next meal. I remember him telling me the name and I’d imagine a bird with a crown or some other symbol of royalty.

Now, the Kingfisher is an absolute beaut of a bird. It’s got a striking look to it, sure, but the way it hunts is fantastically amazing. Either perching on a tree or hovering over the water, it’s head is always completely still. Even when it’s wings are flapping at something like 200 beats per minute, that head remains motionless. And that makes sense, right? It has to have as steady of a view as possible when searching for fish just under the surface. 

And for that it has another amazing adaptation. Their eyes are especially adapted to be able to compensate for the refraction of the water, meaning that they are able to pinpoint the location of fish even when they appear to be in a different spot.  

In my experience I almost always hear the Kingfisher well before seeing it. Their rattling call echos across lakes and ponds, and it’s only then that I’m able to catch a fleeting glimpse of them as they rapidly fly from perch to perch. And though I’ve only recently gotten very serious about birdwatching, it’s those summer evenings watching the Kingfisher just dive bomb the absolute hell out of some fish that was the true spark for me.