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Michigan State UniversityWildlife Toxicology Laboratory

Tittabawasse River Wildlife Banner Photo

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

Nestling belted kingfishers in burrowThe belted kingfisher is a commonly encountered resident species of the Tittabawassee River, letting you know when you’ve entered its territory by giving a loud rattle call. Our research aimed to verify that the belted kingfisher populations residing within the Tittabawassee River floodplain were not experiencing adverse effects from site-specific contaminants, in particular, dioxins and furans.

Belted kingfishers possess many ideal attributes of a study species for assessing bioaccumulative compounds in the environment, including being located near the top of the aquatic food web, having a widespread distribution and displaying territorial foraging behavior. Additionally, because belted kingfishers burrow into the riverbank to make their nest, they may have an elevated exposure potential due to their direct contact with the soil.

To define their dietary exposure to contaminants, site-specific diets of the belted kingfisher were determined through the collection of prey remains and observations of foraging behavior. Observed prey items were then collected from the study area and analyzed for contaminant concentrations. For the belted kingfisher, this included fish, crayfish and amphibians. These collections allowed us to estimate the concentration of contaminants belted kingfishers along the Tittabawassee River were exposed to through their diet.

Contaminant concentrations in the tissues of belted kingfisher were also analyzed to verify that their exposure had been characterized correctly. Specifically for the belted kingfisher, collected tissues included eggs and nestling tissues.

The health of belted kingfisher populations was assessed through the evaluation of productivity measurements, which included nest success, clutch size, hatching success and fledgling success.

Belted kingfisher data have been collected from reference areas in Sanford, Michigan, and the Pine and Chippewa rivers in and around the Chippewa Nature Center, and study areas downstream of Midland, Michigan, ranging to the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

Integrating the findings from all lines of evidence provided us with the information necessary to estimate the risk of adverse effects to belted kingfishers residing within the Tittabawassee River floodplain.

Image Gallery

  • Adult male belted kingfisher Adult male belted kingfisher
  • Adult male belted kingfisher Adult male belted kingfisher
  • Adult male belted kingfisher with a minnow Adult male belted kingfisher with a minnow
  • Dr. Matthew Ziernik with a belted kingfisher Dr. Matthew Ziernik with a belted kingfisher
  • Adult female belted kingfisher release after being banded Adult female belted kingfisher release after being banded
  • Adult belted kingfisher incubating eggs Adult belted kingfisher incubating eggs
  • Juvenile belted kingfisher Juvenile belted kingfisher
  • Belted kingfisher leg band Belted kingfisher leg band
  • Nestling belted kingfisher in a burrow Nestling belted kingfisher in a burrow
  • Five nestling belted kingfishers in a burrow Five nestling belted kingfishers in a burrow
  • Belted kingfisher burrow entrance with a non-lethal trap Belted kingfisher burrow entrance with a non-lethal trap
  • A typical belted kingfisher burrow excavation A typical belted kingfisher burrow excavation