Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Belted Kingfisher - Megaceryle alcyon
Sole representative of ALCEDINIDAE in NC
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General Comments Few other birds in the state are as readily identifiable as the Belted Kingfisher, as it is found across the entire state, essentially the entire year, and has no close relatives in the East. There is some migratory movement, though in most areas of the state (especially in the Piedmont and inner Coastal Plain), such movements can be difficult to detect. It is always found near water, primarily fresh, but at times around brackish or salt water. Favored habitats are shores of lakes and ponds, rivers and wide creeks, and fresh and brackish marshes. It nests only in near-vertical banks; thus, in the breeding season it can be scarce in places near the coast and lower Coastal Plain where suitable banks are absent, yet where suitable foraging habitat is present.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S5B,S5N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Permanent resident, with some migratory movements. Fairly common over nearly all the province in summer, but often uncommon near the coast; in winter, fairly common to common in the lower Coastal Plain and fairly common in the interior of the province. Peak counts: ?
Piedmont Permanent resident. Fairly common essentially throughout, with little evidence of migratory movements. Peak counts: ?
Mountains Permanent resident. In summer and during migration, generally fairly common at lower elevations (to about 3,000 feet), but decreasing in numbers at higher elevations, being generally absent or very rare above 5,000 feet. One seen in flight over Carver's Gap at Roan Mountain at about 5,500 feet elevation on 8 Nov 2016 was at a quite high elevation. In winter (Nov through Feb), mostly uncommon over the region below 3,000 feet, and quite rare above that elevation. Peak counts: ?
Finding Tips Spending an hour or two around a reservoir or other sizable lake, or boating down a river such as the Lumber or Roanoke, is almost sure to turn up one or two kingfishers.
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Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-22], LeGrand[2017-08-24], LeGrand[2012-07-14]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.