RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas — Oftentimes, you hear one before you see him, as the vocal Ringed Kingfisher lands with chattering bravado at his favorite perch.
The Ringed Kingfisher is the largest kingfisher in the Americas at some 16 inches in length. Southernmost Texas is the primary northernmost range of this tropical jewel that sports a formidable bill and gleaming rufous belly.
While occasionally straying as far north as the Nueces River, the best place to see the Ringed Kingfisher is the Rio Grande Valley, but even here they can be difficult to find.
The favored haunt of this avian extrovert is along the Rio Grande and meandering resacas of the lower Valley.
This male is perched on a weathered branch jutting from the shallow water of a receding resaca where he remains still except for the occasional twitch of his tail and subtle bobbing head as he scans for a fish to dive upon.
When prey is sighted, he suddenly dives, but with this plunge no fish is snared, and he quickly returns to his lookout shaking off the water.
On this morning, the determined fisherman makes multiple dives, but despite repeated efforts does not catch a single fish and returns to his perch to resume the vigil.
Once more he flies off; leaving the branch quivering in his wake, and with a resounding splash vanishes in the reeds. Soon, reappearing with a fish clenched securely in his bill.
Along with the fish, he has snared strands of grass, and shaking the water from his wings repositions on the perch preparing to savor his catch of the day.
However, he decides to dine elsewhere and soon departs for another breakfast venue or perhaps to share the piscine treat with his mate.