The belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) - local seasonal appearance

Based on 133 observations in Seymour township, Northumberland county, southeast Ontario, 1999-2006.

The earliest and latest sightings of this hardy summer resident during this eight-year period were on 09 April (twice) and 20 November, apart from a unique set of sightings in early 2005. A single individual was sighted four times over Trout Creek, just west of Campbellford, during the interval 19-27 February. In each case this was probably the same bird, although that is just speculation. This was a period (and indeed a whole winter) of alternate thaws and freeze-ups. The creek was flowing openly along part of its course at this time, although with significant ice still along the banks and in the creek bed, and early-morning temperatures often below -10°C. A similar remarkable sighting was made on the afternoon of Saturday 09 February 2013, after a heavy (30 cm) snow fall in the previous 48 hours. Two kingfishers were heard and seen together over the largely-frozen Trout Creek between Simpson and Pellissier streets in Campbellford. The winter to date had also seen strong temperature shifts: snow and pronounced thaws.

Regular sightings occur from the second week of April through August, tailing off into the fall. It is generally seen or heard during its frequently-raucous passages along watercourses with generally-good rates of flow, such as Trout Creek. The typical nesting site of this species is a burrow dug by the bird in sand, clay or gravel banks (Bent, 1940, pp.111-129). The birds have relatively few natural enemies, although rare cases of predation by a red-tailed hawk or persecution by an eastern kingbird have been described (ibid., pp.124-125).

The typical migration times of these birds through Presqu'ile provincial park, roughly 40 km to the south, is early April to late October, with extreme sightings on 25 March and 16 December (LaForest, 1993, p.223). The mild early winter of 2006-2007 led to a spectacular Christmas bird count on December 17th, around Presqu'ile park (within a 15- mile-wide semicircle centred on the harbour at Brighton, as reported by Doug McRae in The Independent, 20 Dec 2006, p.5). 87 species were logged, plus 7 more seen in the 3 days before and 3 days after the count. The many sightings included two belted kingfishers, plus a number of other species that generally disappear from the immediate Campbellford area, but may overwinter close at hand, as at Meyersburg, or Wooler, or creeks and harbour near Brighton: examples include American robins and red-winged blackbirds.

belted kingfisher sightings [132 kb]


BENT,AC (1940) Life Histories of North American Cuckoos, Goatsuckers, Hummingbirds, and their Allies. Dover Publications, Inc., reprint of Smithsonian Institution Bull. 176, in 2 volumes in 1964 / as 1 volume in 1989, 506pp.

LaFOREST,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.

Graham Wilson, posted 18 July 2003, updates 03,10 January 2007 and 11 February 2013

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