Belted Kingfisher Look-out Perch

Belted Kingfishers are an extremely wary subject so a complete concealment blind is necessary to photograph them, or at least a partial concealment blind in places like certain parks in Florida. They are always wary around nest sights, so a complete concealment blind is absolutely necessary there. Targeting them at a look-out perch near a nest can yield images of adults bringing food in and leaving to feed young at the nest hole.

Finding a nest hole is not difficult if you live near extensive waterways like I do. During the right time in spring adult Belted Kingfishers are very vocal around nest sites. Looking for their characteristic holes in sand or dirt banks near a very vocal area will sometimes yield a photographable situation. I often look for active or abandoned sand quarries (with permission) and if I hear the Kingfishers, finding the nest is usually not difficult.

What is a look-out perch? It is a perch near the nest that adults fly to from a distance before feeding the young. On the perch, with food in mouth, the adult surveys the surrounding area to make sure no potential predators are within sight, and then flies directly to the nest.

It is absolutely necessary to get the birds used to an empty blind for a few days and getting into the blind and setting up quickly when the adults are far from the nest. That takes some binocular viewing from a long distance away from the nest and working quickly. After entering the blind, the look-out perch can be pre-focused upon and when the adult is arriving to the perch its rattle becomes persistent and loud, after it rattles at a high tree perch farther away. So, capturing the image is via sound – firing a burst of images to capture the landing image(s) as the rattle becomes loudest – this takes some experience to know the timing. The higher your camera’s frame rate the better your chances of catching a good wing flare position. A perch with a pinnacle point is necessary and focusing on that point and locking focus is also necessary. A mirrorless camera is best, set on silent shooting.

Then perched images can be taken.

And the take-off images to the nest hole can also be captured.

Some adults prefer rocks for their look-out perch.

You never know what the adults can bring in.

Opportunities for this type of Belted Kingfisher photography are possible at my Common Loons and More Workshop