Wild Birds

African Pygmy Kingfishers

The African Pygmy Kingfishers (Ispidina picta) is a small insectivorous kingfisher found in the Afrotropics, mostly in woodland habitats. Some texts refer to this species as Ceyx pictus.

Some tribes in Uganda refer to them as “dozers” due to the fact that they are frequently seen “dozing” with even abrupt head jerks.


The African Pygmy Kingfishers are approximately 11-13 cm in length – about the size of a sparrow. It is the smallest of all Kingfishers in South Africa.


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 cover (the feathers covering the ears) distinguish it from the similar Malachite Kingfisher. The natalensis subspecies occurring in the south of the range have paler underparts and a blue spot above the white ear patch.

Males and females look alike.

Juveniles have less extensive violet on their ear coverts and a black rather than orange bill.

African Pygmy-Kingfisher (Ispidina picta)


Usually found singly or in pairs. Secretive and unobtrusive.


Found in woodland, savanna, and coastal forest. Being insectivorous, it is not bound to water.

Status and Distribution

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.

Diet / Feeding

They mostly eat insects, but will also catch frogs and lizards.

Breeding / Nesting

They typically nest in tunnels and banks.


A high-pitched insect-like “tsip-tsip” is given in flight.

African Pygmy Kingfisher


  • 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. and Brown, C, J.(eds), pp. 648-649. Birdlife South Africa, Johannesburg. ISBN 0-620-20730-2

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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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