BEKI may often go overlooked as they sit silently along the edges of the bodies of water where they hunt. It's not until they take flight and emit a startling rattle that their presence is obvious. The steel blue upperparts and breast band, along with the contrasting white underparts are hard to miss. Females have a beautiful rusty belly patch that makes them the more stunning of the pair. With a ragged crest and large bill, kingfisher look almost comical--until you see them hunt and realize to their prey there is nothing funny about them. Found at almost any elevation in Utah, kingfishers are found in all habitat types as long as a food source is present. Watching one hunt, it's hard not to admire what a unique part of the ecosystem this species is--as its the only member of the family found throughout most of the United States.
Found at a variety of water habitats including: streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, marshes, and wetlands. If there is clear water for a suitable food source and dirt banks for nesting, there may be kingfishers present.
Kingfishers are found year-round in Utah. Seasonal altitudinal migration occurs as birds leave frozen water sources in the winter. Migrants from further north likely winter here and some breeders migrate as far south as Central America. Detected at higher than normal numbers in the fall and winter which may be due to the influx of migrants.
Feeding is an awesome spectacle, as the kingfisher watches from a perch for prey, before plunging from a hover headfirst into the water capturing small fish, crayfish, frogs, tadpoles, and aquatic insects. Occasionally takes prey away from water, including small mammals, young birds, and lizards. Similar to owls, the BEKI coughs up pellets formed from bones, scales, and other indigestible parts of prey.
During courtship, the male brings fish and feeds the female. Nests are dug into steep or vertical dirt banks and range from 3-6' long, sloping upwards from the entrance. Nest contains 5-8 white eggs, and both parents will contribute to incubation for about 3 weeks. After hatching both parents hunt and provide food for nearly a month before young fledge. Parents will continue feeding young for several more weeks after fledging as well. BEKI have been known to have second broods in warmer parts of their range.
Best Places to Find
Widespread and locally common there are a number of reliable locations to see kingfishers in Utah. Some of the best include Jordan River Parkway in Salt Lake County, Farmington Bay WMA in Davis County, the Logan River in Cache County, Lytle Ranch in Washington County, Jordanelle Reclamation Area in Wasatch County, and East Bay Golf Course in Utah County.