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The African pygmy kingfisher (Ispidina picta) is a small insectivorous kingfisher found in the Afrotropics, mostly in woodland habitats.

African pygmy kingfisher
Flickr - Rainbirder - African pygmy-kingfisher (Ceyx pictus).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Alcedinidae
Subfamily: Alcedininae
Genus: Ispidina
I. picta
Binomial name
Ispidina picta
(Boddaert, 1783)

I. p. picta
I. p. ferruginea
I. p. natalensis


Ceyx pictus



A description of the African pygmy kingfisher without a scientific name was published in 1780 by the French polymath Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon.[2][3] The binomial name Todus pictus was coined by the Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert in 1783.[4][5] The genus Ispidina was introduced by the German naturalist Johann Jakob Kaup in 1848.[6] The specific epithet picta is from the Latin pictus meaning "painted".[7] Some texts refer to this species as Ceyx pictus.

There are three subspecies:[8]

  • I. p. picta (Boddaert, 1783) – Senegal and Gambia to Ethiopia and south to Uganda
  • I. p. ferrugina Clancey, 1984 – Guinea-Bissau to west Uganda and south to Angola, Zambia and north Tanzania
  • I. p. natalensis (Smith, A, 1832) – south Angola to central Tanzania south to north and east South Africa


The African pygmy kingfisher is 12 cm (4.7 in) in length. The sexes are alike. It is a very small kingfisher with rufous underparts and a blue back extending down to the tail. The dark blue crown of the adult separates it from the African dwarf kingfisher. The smaller size and violet wash on the ear coverts distinguish it from the similar malachite kingfisher.[9]

The natalensis subspecies occurring in the south of the range has paler underparts and a blue spot above the white ear patch. Juveniles have less extensive violet on their ear coverts and a black rather than orange bill. The call is a high-pitched insect-like "tsip-tsip" given in flight.

Distribution and habitatEdit

The African pygmy kingfisher is distributed widely in Africa south of the Sahara, where it is a common resident and intra-African migrant. It is absent from much of the horn of Africa, and also the drier western regions of Southern Africa. It is found in woodland, savanna and coastal forest, it is not bound to water. It is usually found either singly or in pairs and is secretive and unobtrusive.



African pygmy kingfishers nest in burrows that are dug by both sexes in sandy soil banks or into a ground termite nest. The burrows are between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in) in length. The clutch is four to six white eggs. Both parents care for the young. They can have several broods in a year.[9]


The African pygmy kingfisher's diet consists of insects like grasshoppers, praying mantis, worms, crickets, dragonflies, cockroaches and moths. They are also known to take spiders which make out quite a large part of their diet. They also take geckos and lizards that are easily their length and small frogs and even occasionally small crabs. Prey are hunted from low perches and once caught are either crushed in the beak or are smashed against the perch.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Ispidina pictus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc de (1780). "Le Todier bleu a ventre orangé". Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux (in French). Volume 13. Paris: De L'Imprimerie Royale. pp. 337–338.
  3. ^ Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc de; Martinet, François-Nicolas (1765–1783). Planches Enluminées D'Histoire Naturelle. Volume 8. Paris: De L'Imprimerie Royale. Plate 783, Todier de Juida.
  4. ^ Boddaert, Pieter (1783). Table des planches enluminéez d'histoire naturelle de M. D'Aubenton : avec les denominations de M.M. de Buffon, Brisson, Edwards, Linnaeus et Latham, precedé d'une notice des principaux ouvrages zoologiques enluminés (in French). Utrecht. p. 49, Number 783, Fig 1.
  5. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1945). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 5. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 177–178.
  6. ^ Kaup, Johann Jakob (1848). "Die Familie der Eisvögel (Alcedidae)". Verhandlungen des Naturhistorischen Vereins für das Großherzogthum Hessen und Umgebung (in German). 2: 71–72. OCLC 183221382.
  7. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  8. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2017). "Rollers, ground rollers & kingfishers". World Bird List Version 7.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
  9. ^ a b Fry, C. Hilary; Fry, Kathie; Harris, Alan (1992). Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Rollers. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 196–198. ISBN 978-0-7136-8028-7.
  • Sasol Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton - Published by Struik 1997 - ISBN 1-86872-103-5
  • Birds of Africa south of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan - Published by Struik 2003 - ISBN 1-86872-857-9
  • Clancey, P.A. 1997 Pygmy Kingfisher Ispidina picta. In: The atlas of southern African birds. Vol 1: Non-passerines. Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C,J.(eds), pp. 648–649. Birdlife South Africa, Johannesburg. ISBN 0-620-20730-2

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