Belted Kingfisher – Old Stubby-legs

Those incredibly short legs can be problematic at times.


1/6400 (yes – too much SS), f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This is the male Belted Kingfisher I photographed about three months ago near the Jordan River. I miss my time spent with him but I think my kingfisher glory days are over for now. His favorite fishing pond dried up last fall for several weeks. There’s water in it again now and there has been for some time but the kingfisher never spends time there so I suspect all the fish were killed when the water disappeared so he doesn’t hang around.

Like most photos this one has its strengths and weaknesses. I’m bummed by that looping branch at lower left because it’s soft and it obstructs part of his tail but I do like the calling pose, his erect crest and the sharpness and detail of the bird. And for me getting this close to a kingfisher is always a treat.

I also enjoy seeing those stubby little legs. If there’s a bird with shorter legs relative to body size than Belted Kingfishers I don’t know what it is. I’ve heard it said that the reason they have such short legs is so they can negotiate their cramped burrows during breeding season but I’ve never been able to confirm that.



1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Extremely short legs can be problematic when you have an itch that need scratching. Here he’s been scratching the right side of his face but unlike most birds he couldn’t just reach up with a foot to accomplish the job because his legs are too short. Instead he had to pull his head way down to meet his foot. In this shot his head is coming back up after scratching and we get a glimpse of his black foot on the side of his body.

While he was actually scratching his body was in an amusing contorted position but his eye was closed and I didn’t like the angle on his face so I deleted those shots. Now I wish I’d kept at least one of them.




25 comments to Belted Kingfisher – Old Stubby-legs

  • Nancy Blake

    I am finally catching up on a few days of your posts. Your comment about short stubby legs reminds me of hummingbirds and swifts and the old concept that they did not have feet – apparently they did not need feet because they were always flying and did not perch! Scientists put them into a phylognetic order called Apodiformes and the poor swifts into a family called Apodidae. As a systematist myself, I know it is hard (if not impossible) to change an existing name of a named creature, especially if the only reason is that the concept is totally wrong, but, c’mon, calling them “no feet” is just cruel. At least the kingfishers escaped that nonsense.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Too loose La trek… 🙂

  • Diana

    I spotted one for first time this past summer, what a treat😃

  • Marty K

    Your first shot combined with Robyn’s comparison to Groucho Marx made my me laugh heartily! Laughter is good today. He looks so excited to be seen in that first shot! Woo Hoo! 😀

  • Charlotte Norton

    Fantastic shots Ron! Why not restock the pond?


  • Jean Haley

    That’s the happiest Kingfisher I have ever seen.

  • Robyn Kemp

    Wonderful shots! What a shame about his pond. We had a transient female that used to spend a day or two at a nearby pond every year, but the fish mostly died a couple years ago. The hooded Mergansers are here again this winter, though, so maybe the fish are making a comeback.

    Belted Kingfishers always remind me of Groucho Marx. Good thing they don’t come with tiny little cigars.

  • Laura Culley

    It really sucks that his favorite hunting spot dried up! That kind of stuff always complicates and compromises one’s struggle for survival. I hope it comes back soon, but while the water is one thing, the fist are a whole ‘nother thing.
    I often wonder about birds scratching their itches. While it’s probably a challenge with short, stubby legs, my biggest wonder is how raptors scratch their faces without slicing their heads open with those needle-like talons. And yet they manage.
    As for walking, I’m sure they do, but I’ll bet they look as funny as raptors walking. That always makes me laugh. They hate that because at that moment, their majestic thing just ain’t working for them 🙂

    • Yes, it sure does suck, Laura. It was always easy fishing for him there but now he has to fish the river and that’s a lot tougher for him for a variety of reasons.

      • Laura Culley

        I’m confident he’ll find another area to fish/survive. Birds are like that and life is persistent. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

  • Porcupine

    Ron I would like to propose an alternative way of looking at “birds behind sticks”. The most alluring pictures of beautiful people are not photographic plates in anatomy texts. Fan dancers are a great example of what I am talking about. For those of you old enough to know about fan dancers, they actually showed very little while being very attractive to the audience. That is how I view all of my “birds behind sticks” shots. Just to be perfectly clear here, I am comparing the BIRDS to a fan dancer, NOT Ron!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Sometimes I find what bothers you pretty funny, like the “Jay branch”…which doesn’t bother me at all. These are both great images. Like the “smile” in the second and, of course, those funny, stubby little legs….I hope water, fish and birds return to that little pond for some more great photo ops.

    • Patty, It’s been several months now with water back in the pond and he still never visits there. I check every day and I’ve seen him elsewhere occasionally but never at the pond. Bummer.

  • He does seem to be having a bit of an issue! 😀 Great capture.

  • Judy Gusick

    Good ones! 🙂 Caught the detail VERY well even if the one twig didn’t cooperate. Love Kingfishers and they are a challenge to photograph. Working in the burrow does sound like a good reason and they certainly don’t “walk” that I’ve noticed………….

    • I’ve been wondering this morning if they ever “walk” and if anyone’s ever been able to get a photo of one on the ground. Don’t think I’ve ever seen such a photo. Thanks, Judy.