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Desert Diary

Birds/Belted Kingfisher


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We all know about birds. They build nests in trees and feed on seeds or insects or, if they are hawks or eagles, on things like mice and rabbits. I'm sure all the true bird watchers out there are cringing about now, though, because they know that birds are a much, much more diverse group. All of which brings us to a bird that occurs along the rivers and streams of the Chihuahuan Desert that does none of the above-mentioned things.

The bird I have in mind doesn't nest in trees or bushes, or even on the ground—it nests IN the ground. The Belted Kingfisher digs a burrow into the side of a dirt bank, not a behavior most of us associate with birds. About its food—well, of course the name gives it away. It catches and eats fish. As for the rest of its name—the belted part—someone must have been a bit confused, because the band of dark color, the belt, is immediately below the white collar. Not even today's teenagers are apt to go for that fad! pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.


Kingfisher drawing

Belted Kingfisher.  Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes (from Henshaw 1921).



Henshaw, H. W., The book of birds. Common birds of town and country and American game birds. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. 195 pp.