Belted Kingfisher


The Belted Kingfisher shown in this print was photographed on Appleton Street, perched over the canal between a vacant mill building and the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center:


Below, a field recording posted to the bird audio archive site Xeno-Canto:

Paying attention to food sources is one of the best ways to find birds.

After all, the two factors that drive the annual spring and fall migrations are nesting locations and food.

“Escaping the cold is a motivating factor but many species, including hummingbirds, can withstand freezing temperatures as long as an adequate supply of food is available,” reads the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s page about bird migration.

So, if you find a reliable food source, you’ll probably find birds. This is especially helpful for finding birds in a city: if you were a bird, where (and what) would you eat?

Twice each year, the city of Holyoke drains its canal system for maintenance. With the canals empty, new food sources are suddenly exposed. Birds are free to poke around in the mud and muck; freshwater mussels tile the canal beds; and any fish in the canals end up easier to spot, trapped in the few puddles left behind.

Almost immediately, this subtle change begins drawing irregular species downtown. Herons and egrets appear, stalking frogs and fish.

One evening last October, with the last light of day fleeing the quiet streets, a Belted Kingfisher made fast flights inches above the empty canal beds before perching on a utility wire on Appleton Street, outside an abandoned textile factory.

The canals only stay empty for about a week, though. Within days of the sighting, the canals were filling back up, and the kingfisher returned to its usual haunts along the Connecticut River.

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