Friday, July 25, 2014

Episode 224 (7-28-14): Belted Kingfisher

Click to listen to episode (2:23)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of July 28, 2014.

This week we feature another mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 10 seconds, and see if you can identify what’s making the twittering or rattling sound.  And here’s a hint: The answer is perching, virtually, on Virginia Water Radio.


If you guessed a Kingfisher, you’re right!  You heard the main call of a Belted Kingfisher, a distinctive bird whose likeness perches atop the logo for this show.  Real-life Belted Kingfishers are found commonly throughout North America around streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and estuaries.  You can easily recognize this blue-gray and white bird [Ed. note, not in audio: Please note that female Belted Kingfishers has a brown breast band; see the photo below] with a large head crest, but you’re more likely to hear a kingfisher’s rattling call than to get a good look at the creature.  If you do see a kingfisher, the bird might be conducting a quick territory-patrolling flight; perched on a tree or wire preparing to dive into the water to catch fish; or hovering above water just before a dive.  If you’re as sharp as a kingfisher’s beak, you might also see a streamside or lakeside cavity marking where the bird has burrowed several feet into the bank to build its nest.  But that discovery would likely come with an earful of a kingfisher’s rattling alarm.  Thanks to Lang Elliott for permission to use this week’s sounds.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 7/25/14]

Belted Kingfisher along the New River in Radford, Va., July 23, 2014.  This is a female, as indicated by the brown band across the breast.  Photo by Robert Abraham, used with permission.

The sounds of the Belted Kingfisher were taken from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (New York: Time Warner, 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott, whose work is available online at and the “Music of Nature” Web site,

Sounds of the Belted Kingfisher were also included in Virginia Water Radio episodes
118 (7-9-12), A Summertime Virginia Sampler of Birds around Water; and 141 (12-17-12), A Year of Water Sounds.

Virginia Water Radio thanks Robert Abraham for providing the photograph of a Belted Kingfisher.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Philip Brian Raflo, on the 60th anniversary of his birth.

Sources for this episode
Chandler S. Robbins et al., A Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001).

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “All About Birds,” online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and American Ornithologists’ Union, “Birds of North America Online,” at (subscription required).

Lang Elliott with Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region (New York: Time Warner, 1997).

Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson, Life in the Chesapeake Bay (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).

Other sources of information about birds in Virginia

Virginia Society of Ornithology at

E-bird Web site at
, maintained by the Cornell Lab and the Audubon Society.  Here you can find locations of species observations made by contributors, and you can sign up to contribute your own observations.

Virginia Water News and Other Information
            For news, events, and resources relevant to Virginia's water resources, grouped into categories, please visit the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, available online at