Not the best picture of a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), but I was just talking about this species with Peter and Jim, so I thought it'd be fun to post a photo.
I've actually been casually trying to get a picture of a kingfisher for a while now. They're tough! As soon as I start approaching with a camera, they start calling and then fly off into the distance.
This is a female — note the rufous sides and lower breast band. Males would lack the rufous coloration. She was perched on a sign at Gaffney Point near the south end of Bodega Harbor. (I often see kingfishers at the north end of the harbor. And Peter recently noticed one near the Highway 1 bridge over Salmon Creek.)
While I was taking this picture — from a distance, hidden behind a cypress tree — the kingfisher changed position and became very sleek.
You can guess what happened next. She disappeared from view, I heard a splash in the water, and then she reappeared...
..with a fish!
In these photos, can you see the small white spot between the eye and the bill? Lawrence Kilham hypothesized that those spots could gather light and serve as guides when sighting fish. His second idea was that the spots helped the adults transfer food to the young in the dark burrows where kingfishers nest. I've also read that kingfishers might raise the white eyespot if threatened, so perhaps it has some role in communication displays. Maybe you'll be able to think about other ways white eyespots of kingfishers could be useful.
The two references for the above are:
- 1974. Biology of young Belted Kingfishers. Am. Midl. Nat. 92: 245-247.
- 1988. King of the stream. Nat. Hist. 97: 38-45.