Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

African Pygmy-kingfisher (Ispidina picta)


French: Martin-pêcheur pygmée German: Natalzwergfischer Spanish: Martín pigmeo africano
Other common names: Pygmy Kingfisher

Todus pictus


, 1783,

Juida = St Louis, Senegal


Sister to I. lecontei. Birds of S Somalia formerly separated as race jubaensis. Identity of those breeding on Pemba I (Tanzania) unclear, as both nominate and natalensis have been collected there. Race ferrugina sometimes misspelt ferruginea. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • I. p. picta (Boddaert, 1783) – Senegal E to Eritrea, S to Uganda and Pemba I (possibly); breeding populations N of 12–13° N are migratory.
  • I. p. ferrugina Clancey, 1984 – Guinea-Bissau E to W Uganda, S to C Angola, NW Zambia and N Tanzania.
  • I. p. natalensis (A. Smith, 1832) – S Angola across to C & E Tanzania, including Pemba (possibly) and Zanzibar, and S to E Botswana and N & E South Africa; some migration N to E DRCongo, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan.
  • Descriptive notes

    12 cm; male 11–16 g, female 9–15 g. Both sexes nominate race black crown with glossy blue tips; rufous eyebrow and hindneck with distinctive lilac wash on side of... read more


    Thin, high-pitched “seek” or “tseet tseet”, often in flight; also prolonged... read more


    Thick evergreen forest, riverine forest and swamp-forest, woodland, thickets and trees in dry... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including grasshoppers (Orthoptera), moths and caterpillars, flies (Diptera), beetles (Coleoptera); also spiders, small millipedes... read more


    Lays in Sept–Nov in Mauritania and Mali, and in Mar–Oct in S parts of W Africa; in Jan, Mar–Jun and Oct–Nov in E... read more


    S populations present in South Africa and Zimbabwe from Oct to Apr/May, in Zambia Aug–May,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Has a wide distribution, and found in a range of habitats. Many are killed in Zimbabwe and South Africa by hitting buildings while migrating at night... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. (2019). African Pygmy-kingfisher (Ispidina picta). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 November 2019).