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Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies erithaca, "Black-backed Kingfisher". Photo by nothinghill
Ceyx erithaca

Includes: Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Black-backed Kingfisher


14cm (5½ in)

  • head rufous
  • forehead may have a blackish spot (subspecies dependent)
  • post-aural white streak
  • post-aural blue patch above the white streak (some subspecies)
  • crown with a purple sheen (varies somewhat with subspecies)
  • throat white
  • underparts tawny to yellowish orange
  • upperparts subspecies dependent: bluish-black with back blue in "Black-backed" (rump and tail darker, more purple), rufous in "Rufous-backed" which also shows some purple in the rump area.
  • wings dark in most subspecies: more rufous in rufidorsa. Flight feathers black
  • bill red
  • legs and feet orange-red
  • eye dark
Subspecies rufidorsa, "Rufous-backed Kingfisher"
Photo by sAwnOirOychAng
Krabi, Thailand, March 2006


Asia: found in China, India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Eastern and Western Himalayas, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan
Southeast Asia: Indochina, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Malay Peninsula, Brunei, Singapore, Philippines, Island of Borneo, Indonesia, Greater Sundas, Sumatra, Java, Lesser Sundas


Some authorities elevate subspecies rufidorsa, motleyi, captus, and jungei as "Rufous-backed Kingfisher", C. rufidorsa. They leave erithaca and macrocarus as "Black-backed Kingfisher", C. erithaca. These forms ocasionally hybridise where they meet on the Malayan Peninsula.

Reference [6] suggests motleyi may warrant elevation ("Sabah Dwarf Kingfisher"; see discussion below). Subspecies captus has different plumage to the nearest (other) subspecies, being more similar to motleyi. It may also warrant splitting [6]


Subspecies erithaca, "Black-backed Kingfisher". Photo by kampang
Macritchie Reservoir, Singapore, December 2011

Clements recognises the following subspecies [1]:

  • C. e. erithaca: "Black-backed Kingfisher". India and Sri Lanka to south-eastern China, Indochina and Sumatra - partly migratory, reaching south to Sumatra.
  • C. e. macrocarus: "Black-backed Kingfisher". Nicobar Islands and southern Andaman Islands
  • C. e. rufidorsa: "Rufous-backed Kingfisher". Thai-Malay Peninsula, Greater and Lesser Sundas to western Philippines
  • C. e. motleyi: "Rufous-backed Kingfisher". Borneo and adjacent northern offshore islands
  • C. e. captus: "Rufous-backed Kingfisher". Nias Island (off north-western Sumatra)
  • C. e. jungei: "Rufous-backed Kingfisher". Batu sland. and Simeulue Island (off north-western Sumatra)

Some authors consider motleyi a hybrid (i.e. not a valid taxon). However, reference [6] notes that these birds have a stable consistent appearance. They exhibit some Black-backed Kingfisher plumage characteristics (e.g. dark wings despite largely rufous upperparts) and may warrant splitting as a separate species ("Nias Dwarf Kingfisher").


Lowland rainforest and dense undergrowth. Found at heights around 300 m.



Their diet consists almost entirely of insects such as water beetles, grasshoppers, flies and winged ants.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved October 2015)
  4. Wikipedia
  5. BF Member observations
  6. Eaton, JA, B van Balen, NW Brickle, FE Rheindt 2021. Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago (Greater Sundas and Wallacea), Second Edition. Lynx Editions. ISBN978-84-16728-44-2

Recommended Citation

External Links

Search for scientific name Ceyx erithaca:

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