American Pygmy Kingfishers

American Pygmy Kingfishers (Chloroceryle aenea)

The American Pygmy Kingfishers (Chloroceryle aenea) occurs naturally in the American tropics from southern Mexico south through Central America to western Ecuador, and then around the northern Andes cordillera in the east to central Bolivia and central Brazil.

They occupy the entire Amazon Basin and the Tocantins River drainage adjacent in Pará state Brazil. It also occurs on Trinidad.

This tiny kingfisher occurs in dense forests and mangroves along small streams or rivers with heavily vegetated banks.

American Pygmy Kingfishers on a Tree Branch
American Pygmy Kingfishers on a Tree Branch

Breeding / Nesting

The female lays three, sometimes four, white eggs.

The unlined nest is in a horizontal tunnel up to 40 cm long made in a river bank, earth heap, or occasionally an arboreal termite nest.



The American Pygmy Kingfisher is 13 cm long and weighs 18g.

It has the typical kingfisher shape, with a short tail and long bill. It is oily green above, with a yellow-orange collar around the neck, rufous underparts and a white belly. The female has a narrow green breast band.

Young birds resemble the adults, but have paler rufous underparts, no breast band, and speckled wings and flanks.


There are two recognised subspecies of American Pygmy Kingfisher that intergrade in central Costa Rica.

  • southern C. a. aenea – Nominate Form – has two lines of white spots on the wings, and
  • northern C. a. stictoptera – has three or four lines of spots and a concealed white patch of feathers on the undertail.
American Pygmy Kingfishers on a Branch
American Pygmy Kingfisher on a Branch

Calls / Vocalizations

Its call is described as a weak tik or stony cht cht.


Diet / Feeding

American Pygmy Kingfisher perch quietly on a low branch close to water before plunging in head first after small fish or tadpoles. They will also hawk for insects. They are quite tame, but easily overlooked as they sit silently amongst riverside branches.

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson


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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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