Ben here with another cool find from last week's VMNH Christmas bird count!

Ben here with another cool find from last week's VMNH Christmas bird count!

Ben here with another cool find from last week's VMNH Christmas bird count! We spotted this belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) at Doe Run Park in Martinsville, and it's a bird I'd been hoping to snap a photo of for quite a while.

This particular kingfisher is a male, and it's easy to tell the males and females apart in this species because the females have an additional rusty-colored patch on the breast. Belted kingfishers can most often be seen perched in trees overlooking bodies of water, just like the one in the photograph. They sit at these "watchpoints" studying the water and looking for fish swimming at the surface. When a kingfisher spots a tasty looking fish, it will drop from the tree, plunge head-first into the water, and snag the prey in its beak!

Kingfishers dig out their nests along the bank adjacent to a body of water. The nest takes the form of a long horizontal tunnel that gradually slopes uphill. That way, if the body of water floods, the chicks will be safe inside a little air pocket until the floodwaters recede.

Belted kingfishers can be found throughout virtually all of North America at one time of year or another. Here in Virginia, they're permanent year-round residents. Given their food preferences, you're not going to find a belted kingfisher at your bird feeder -- although if you happen to have a goldfish pond, you might find one perched in a tree above it!

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.

You've seen the posts. You've learned the facts. Now, it's time to prove you are a #BenInNature Mega Fan! The museum's education team has developed the #BenInNature Trivia Challenge to identify the most devoted fans out there! Everyone who successfully answers each trivia question correctly will be congratulated by having your own nature selfie posted to the museum's #BenInNature Mega Fan Photo Album on the official VMNH Facebook page! Learn more and download the trivia challenge today by visiting

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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