Kingfisher call brings to mind old money

As I stop my car, turn it off and listen for my feathery friends, I hear an unexpectedly harsh screeching and a sharp sound like tick-tick-tick-tick-tick. I instantly recognize the distinctive sound and I’m suddenly reminded of money! (I’ll explain later).

Kingfishers live in tunnels that slope upwards in the side of the Scarborough Bluffs. They were once a prominent subject on the artwork of the $5 bill. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

Suddenly a streak of blue flies by and out of sight. Too fast to capture it with my camera, I instead just enjoy the moment and hope that he’ll come back. As the bird flies by he continues to call in a loud, dry rattle: tick-tick-tick-tick. I remind myself to stay patient. If I wait long enough I’ll get a chance for my shot.

As I look around trying to find him, he starts his screaming one more time and gives away his position. But not just him! I see TWO Belted Kingfishers (megaceryle alcyo), notable for their large bills and raised spiky crests (which I like to call their mohawk), sitting on the fence.  Soon they were back in the air, zooming around screeching beautifully – in their own way – to their hearts’ content.

As I sat on the picnic bench I watched one disappear into the cliff face of the Scarborough Bluffs. Belted Kingfishers nest in sand banks away from the water. The sand banks host tunnels that can be half a metre to 3 m in length and slope upward from the entrance. They do this to keep water from entering the nest.

A pair of Kingfishers was spotted at the Scarborough Bluffs recently. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

A Belted Kingfisher is between 28 to 36 cm long with a wingspan of 48 to 60 cm. They are beautiful birds that have a slate blue head, large white collar, a large blue band on their breast, and white under-parts. The back and wings are slate blue, with black feather tips with little white dots. The female features a rufous band across the upper belly that extends down the flanks. The Kingfisher is one of the few bird species where the female is more brightly coloured than the male.  They eat small fish, bugs, insects and mice.

Almost everyone has actually seen hundreds of pictures of Belted Kingfishers before, probably without even realizing it! You might recognize them from the 1986 version of the $5 bill.

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