Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher


Conservation status: LEAST CONCERN
Common name: Oriental dwarf kingfisher, black-backed kingfisher, three-toed kingfisher
Scientific name: Ceyx erithaca
Type: bird
Diet: insects, frogs
Length: 11.5 – 13 cm
Weight: 11.0 – 14.0 g


A distinctive tiny kingfisher with bright yellow underparts.

Sexes are alike. The lores and face are deep yellow in colour. A yellowish-white patch behind the ear extends to the back of the head. There is a metallic blue black patch behind the eye coverts, above the whitish patch. The base of the bill has a black spot. Crown, lower back orange-rufous washed with lilac. Mantle, scapulars, upper back and wings are black, glossed with metallic dark blue. Rump and uppertail coverts iliac. Tail chestnut, tipped black. Wings blackish brown, edged on inner webs with rufous. Median and lesser coverts black, tipped metallic dark blue.  Shoulder chestnut.  Chin and throat whitish yellow. Breast, sides and flanks yellow, washed with brown, forming an indistinct breast band. The rest of the underparts is deep yellow. A blue patch on each side of the neck, bordered by a white patch below.

Immatures are duller in colours, with less liliac gloss and has less blue on the upperparts. The white throat and breast are more clearly defined. The breast band is darker and more rusty orange. The rest of the underparts is pale rufous rather than yellow.  Tail tipped with black.

Soft parts: Iris dark brown. Bill and feet orangy-red.

Size: 11.5–13 cm; Weight: 11.0–14.0 g; Bill: 35.4–37.1 mm; Tarsus: 8.1–10.1 mm; Wing: 55–59 mm; Tail: 19–27 mm

Similar to the locally extinct Ceyx erithaca rufidorsa (Rufous-backed Kingfisher) and differs from it by the dark spot at the base of the bill, blue-black patch behind ear coverts, black wings and mantle.

General Biology:

A rare winter visitor and passage migrant. Birds arrive in Singapore in late September, peaking in October. Singletons have been recorded in subsequent months.

Earliest date recorded: 23 Sep; Latest date recorded: 16 Jun

Found singly in mangrove forests, scrubland and wooded gardens, along banks of small streams. Occasionally found far from water. It has a very feeble whistle, uttered on the wing. It’s flight is swift and twisting. At rest, it sits very erect, with the bill pointing upwards or forwards, not hunched up like Common Kingfisher.


  1. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/dna/organisms/details/380)
  2. BirdLife International (2012). “Ceyx erithaca“. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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