At a Glance
Common in the American tropics, the Ringed Kingfisher was considered rare north of Mexico until the 1960s. It is now found commonly along the lower Rio Grande, and locally elsewhere in southern Texas. Larger than our familiar Belted Kingfisher, the Ringed usually hunts from higher perches and takes bigger fish. When going from place to place, it flies high, often following the river, giving a measured tchack...tchack call in flight.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Kingfishers, Perching Birds
Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Apparently a permanent resident throughout its range, but individuals may wander widely.
13" (33 cm). Bigger than Belted Kingfisher, with underparts all rusty red (crossed by blue chest band on female). White collar, pale bill base may be conspicuous.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Blue, Gray, Orange, Red, White
Songs and Calls
Harsh rattle, louder than that of Belted Kingfisher. Also a loud kleck.
Buzz, Chatter, Rattle
Rivers, large streams, ponds; nests in banks. In Texas, most common along Rio Grande in areas where tall trees and brush border the river; also, increasingly, on ponds, streams elsewhere in southern part of state. In the tropics, found around almost any body of fresh water in lowlands, also in mangrove swamps on coast.
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4-5, sometimes 3-6. White. Incubation is by both parents, incubation period not well known. Young: Evidently fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 5 weeks after hatching, are probably cared for by the adults for some time thereafter.
Evidently fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 5 weeks after hatching, are probably cared for by the adults for some time thereafter.
Seeks its food mostly by perching high (usually 15-35' up, higher than other kingfishers) and watching the water. When it spots a fish (or other prey) close to the surface, it plunges headfirst, catching the fish in its bill. Seldom hovers over the water before diving.
Mostly fish. Feeds mainly on fish, especially those 2-6" long. Also eats some frogs, small snakes, probably other aquatic creatures.
In the tropics, sometimes nests in loose colonies where a large dirt bank is especially favorable for nesting. Such sites are not always near water; sometimes in road cuts or other artificial banks more than a mile from water. Apparently nests only as isolated pairs in United States. Nest site is in burrow excavated in steep or vertical dirt bank. Both sexes help to dig burrow, which may be 5-8' long, with an enlarged nest chamber at the end. Little or no nest material added, but debris may accumulate in chamber.
Has gradually increased and spread in Texas since the 1960s. Widespread and common in the American tropics.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Ringed Kingfisher. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Ringed Kingfisher
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.