The belted kingfisher is among osprey, great horned owls, and great blue herons as our favorite birds to stalk. Kingfishers strike me as having evolved in precisely the opposite manner as the birds of prey such as osprey. The kingfisher has developed a huge beak with which to catch fish but has tiny, almost malformed legs and claws (see the second picture below). The osprey, on the other hand, has a relatively small beak, good only for dismembering their captured prey, but strong, oversized claws with which to grasp them. Two opposite approaches for accomplishing the same task, and fish everywhere have been pointlessly debating which is more deadly for millions of years.
Always willing to let you know they are in the area through their resonating and throaty call, belted kingfishers are quite adept at identifying your camera equipment, especially the length of your lens, and waiting until you are just close enough for a quality photo before flying off. But, always the teases, they fly only a few yards further away, just out of the reach of your lens, to start the process again. Their other favorite trick is to forego their usual squawking and wait silently until you are walking just underneath their resting spot and then yell directly into your ear as they fly off, laughing all the way (ha ha ha) as you scramble to bring your camera up to get a picture of their rapidly vanishing tail feathers. Well, over time I have managed to get lucky a few times as the photos below show, but they keep moving the goalposts. Having taken a picture of a belted kingfisher streaking like Superman toward the fish-laden water below (see third picture again), now they have challenged me to get a picture of one of them coming out of the water with a fish. Game on.
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