Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ringed Kingfisher

You may recall that, last March, Erika and I swung down to Texas on our way to Olympia to greet a grandchild into this world. Texas afforded us great birding--we reported 141 species to eBird. This total was more than any other state we visited. Mitigating factors include more time devoted purely to birding and more time in the state. (Other totals include California, 104; Arizona 30; New Mexico 36; Oregon 33; and Washington 48.)

Leaving Eagle Pass, Texas, as we headed west, I turned to Erika (who was driving) and announced, "we REALLY need to make a U-turn!" On a telephone wire over Elm Creek perched a kingfisher on steroids. Turns out that is how Ringed Kingfishers hunt. They sit on an exposed perch, sometimes for up to two hours. They seldom hover like Belted Kingfishers (Brush 2009).

Seeing a Ringed Kingfisher surprised me. I thought that their United States range was restricted to the Rio Grand, and this impression may have been true when I first birded.  In the last 50 years, however, this species has expanded northward from Mexico (it also occurs well into South America). Now look at the eBird distribution map--the species occurs across most of southern Texas. Although their nesting biology is little studied, presumably Ringed Kingfishers' range are limited by their requirement of high dirt banks for nesting burrows.

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