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Rattles, the Belted Kingfisher

I hope that by this point in your in-depth walk through “The Burgess Animal Book for Children” you are encouraged. Encouraged especially in reading Burgess’ accounts of North American birds and seeing it line up with the details that Cornell Lab shares about these birds. I, for one, am so grateful that our family found this resource and that we chose to walk through it slowly together. I know that most curriculums mark out these chapters to go quickly through it and don’t even necessarily walk through the whole book, but we have benefited through going through it slowly and spending 2 years enjoying it.

As I looked over what Burgess wrote about Rattles and what Cornell Lab entails about the Belted Kingfisher, this encouragement only strengthened! Listen to Cornell Lab’s summary characterization of this little fish eater:

With its top-heavy physique, energetic flight, and piercing rattle, the Belted Kingfisher seems to have an air of self-importance as it patrols up and down rivers and shorelines. It nests in burrows along earthen banks and feeds almost entirely on aquatic prey, diving to catch fish and crayfish with its heavy, straight bill. These ragged-crested birds are a powdery blue-gray; males have one blue band across the white breast, while females have a blue and a chestnut band.


Burgess characterizes the same unique details about Rattles and plays off what Longlegs, the Great Blue Heron, feels about a rather unhappy fishing party. Unhappy because of Rattles self-important fishing strategy:

Presently, Rattles flew out and plunged into the Smiling Pool again, this time, very near to where Longlegs was patiently waiting. He caught a fish, for it is not often that Rattles misses. It was smaller than the first one Peter had seen him catch, and this time as soon as he got back to the Big Hickory-tree, he swallowed it without thumping it against the branch. As for Longlegs, he looked thoroughly put out. For a moment or two he stood glaring angrily up at Rattles. You see, when Rattles had plunged so close to Longlegs he had frightened all the fish. Finally Longlegs seemed to make up his mind that there was room for but one fisherman at a time at the Smiling Pool. Spreading his great wings, folding his long neck back on his shoulders, and dragging his long legs out behind him, he flew heavily away in the direction of the Big River.

Rattles remained long enough to catch another little fish, and then with a harsh rattle flew off down the Laughing Brook. ‘I would know him anywhere by that rattle,’ thought Peter. ‘There isn’t any one who can make a noise anything like it.’

Burgess, The Burgess Bird Book for Children, Living Book Press, p. 106-107

Here are many different angles of Rattles’ call, a sight of him eating a fish, and sitting through a different fishing party:


Here is the rest of our gathering about the Belted Kingfisher:

Form 1, Grade 3 student

Until next time, keep on birding! <3 Kate

More Burgess Birds in Detail

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