Belted kingfishers are a common sight in the Bitterroot Valley
image courtesy of Mike Daniels

image courtesy of Mike Daniels

For most of us living in the Bitterroot, spending time along the river or one of the many valley streams is a highlight of our outdoor connection.

Whether fishing from a raft, wading, or just out for a walk with the dog, those visits have undoubtedly provided an opportunity to encounter one of nature’s most accomplished avian fish predators, the belted kingfisher.

Typically, you hear a loud “rattle-chatter” call as the bird parallels the water course, finally perching on a branch overlooking a pool of clear water. Suddenly, the bird plunges downward, makes a splash on the water, and quickly ascends back to the perch with a 2-inch fish in its beak. Swallowing the prey head first, the bird ruffles its feathers to knock off a few remaining water beads before it departs, echoing the “rattle chatter” as it flies off.

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Teller Wildlife Refuge