Pretty Little Lady


Let's start with kingfishers, in general.  Of the approximate 90 species of kingfishers in the world, only 3 can be found in North America.  In order from smallest to largest they are: Green Kingfisher (7.5-8.5"), Belted Kingfisher (11-14.5") and Ringed Kingfisher (15.5-16.5").  The range of the Belted Kingfisher spans the majority of North America.  The range of the Green Kingfisher is much much smaller; they can be found only a few places in southern Arizona, much of southern Texas and most of Mexico.  The Ringed Kingfisher's North American range is the smallest, touching only a very small part of southern Texas and coastal regions of Mexico.

  • Green Kingfisher - Range Map

    Green Kingfisher - Range Map

  • Belted Kingfisher - Range Map

    Belted Kingfisher - Range Map

  • Ringed Kingfisher - Range Map

    Ringed Kingfisher - Range Map

Kingfishers have large heads, long stocky beaks and compact bodies.  The scientific name for this species is alcyon, derived from the Greek word halcyon, meaning kingfisher.  As their name denotes, they are excellent fisherman.  They patiently sit and wait for their prey and then dive straight into the water to catch their meal.  I could sit for hours watching them fish, if they'd let me.   These kingfishers blend in so well as they sit high up in the tree.  You will most likely hear them before you see them.  Just as quickly as they dive in to get their fish, they are gone.   It's always a thrill to see them.

  • 2016-03-25  Belted Kingfisher

    2016-03-25 Belted Kingfisher

    South Padre Island World Birding Center, Texas

  • 2016-03-26  Green Kingfisher

    2016-03-26 Green Kingfisher

    Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Alamo, Texas

2019-02-18  Ringed Kingfisher (female)

2019-02-18 Ringed Kingfisher (female)

Safford, Arizona

There is much more to tell about kingfishers, but this story is about one kingfisher in particular, the Ringed Kingfisher.  Specifically, I read reports of a female Ringed Kingfisher in Safford, Arizona, about 3 hours from my house.  This is the first ever recorded sighting of a Ringed Kingfisher in Arizona.  People had posted sightings and photos during the span of about 4 months before I finally decided to take the drive and find this pretty lady.

She was spotted at a private pond and at Roper Lake State Park.  I had never been to Safford before so I wasn't familiar with the area.  I mapped the known locations and headed out to find her.  Yes, one single bird.  I thought she'd be pretty easy to find since she is the largest of the 3 kingfishers and since she was seen at only 2 locations.   I was right.

The property was located in a quiet area in a quiet little town in eastern Arizona.  The pond was situated behind the owner's home on the corner of 2 dirt roads with a wire fence all around the property.   It was a small pond with a bench and trees surrounding it.  We parked the car, got out, and scanned the bare trees with our binoculars but didn't see her.  Like kingfishers, we patiently waited for her to arrive (or return as was probably the case).  About 15 minutes in, she flew to a nearby telephone pole, squawked a few times, and flew to the trees on the other side of the pond, too far for my lens and buried in the branches.  Patience was important.  She eventually flew to a closer tree.  Even though she was high up in the tree, I was able to get some great photos of her from the street.   We stuck around for a while longer.  A local man riding his bike stopped to find out what we were looking for.  He warned that the owner of the home was an older, grumpy man who did not like people.  We were lucky he didn't come out and chase us away and decided we should probably leave the kingfisher and the property owner alone and move on to another location to watch birds.

Even though this wasn't a "lifer" for me (the only other time was on a Texas trip), the significance of all of this was that it was the first ever recorded sighting of a Ringed Kingfisher in Arizona and I was able to see and photograph her.   Another exciting adventure added to my list.

  • 2019-02-18  Ringed Kingfisher (female)
  • 2019-02-18  Ringed Kingfisher (female)
  • 2019-02-18  Ringed Kingfisher (female)

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