This large kingfisher, twice as heavy as the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), is an exciting addition to the Texas resident avifauna. When perched or in flight, larger areas of rusty color below easily distinguish this species from Belted Kingfisher. The only other kingfisher breeding in south Texas, Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana), is much smaller than the Ringed with different colored plumage (see Pyle 1997 for plumage details).
DISTRIBUTION. During the 1987-1992 field work for the TBBA project, researchers found 3 confirmed, 4 probable and 21 possible breeding records in latilong blocks 25097, 26097, 26098, 26099 and 29100. Lockwood and Freeman (2004) describe this species as a resident from the lower Rio Grande valley up the river and its tributaries to Kinney and Val Verde counties. In 2001 breeding was documented on the Nueces River in Uvalde County. Some or all of the probable and possible records may represent actual breeding since burrow nests are some of the most difficult to find.
South of Texas the species breeds on the Atlantic coastal plain and Pacific coast of Mexico through the lowlands of Central and South America to Tierra del Fuego (Howell and Webb 1995).
SEASONAL OCCURRENCE. The Ringed Kingfisher is a permanent resident in Texas (Lockwood and Freeman 2004). A pair was feeding young April 8, 1970 for the first nesting record in this state (Oberholser 1974). The continuation of the trend of northward range
expansion by this kingfisher noted by Lockwood and Freeman (2004) is illustrated by recent sightings in Dallas and Navarro counties (Weeks 2008).
BREEDING HABITAT. Ringed Kingfishers breed in excavated burrows (as long as 2.5 m [8 ft], and 15 cm [6 in] in diameter with an enlarged chamber at the end) in stream banks in riparian habitats from sea level to 1500 m (5000 ft). The female usually lays 4-5 (range 2-6) smooth, glossy, white eggs on a layer of fish bones and scales (Oberholser 1974, Harrison 1979, Howell and Webb 1995).
STATUS. Ringed Kingfishers have been expanding their range in Texas since the 1950s, and are now considered locally common in the lower Rio Grande valley up river to Webb County, then uncommon and local northwest to Val Verde and Kinney counties. In recent years this species has been found more frequently on the Nueces and Guadalupe rivers in the Edwards Plateau region (Oberholser 1974, Lockwood and Freeman 2004).
Text by Robert C. Tweit (updated 2008)
Harrison, H. H. 1979. A field guide to western birds’ nests. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, New York.
Lockwood, M. W. and B. Freeman. 2004. The TOS handbook of Texas birds. Texas A&M University Press, College Station.
Oberholser, H. C. 1974. The bird life of Texas, Vol. 1. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Pyle, P. 1997. Identification guide to North American birds, part 1. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, CA.
Weeks, R. 2008. Fall bird report. TOS News Spring: 1.